Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Day 754: Happy/Sad

Still the world is reeling from the death of actor Robin Williams, who took his own life, after a long battle with depression. It's so hard to understand and callously ironic too - how could someone who seemed so jovial and played so many comic roles, who brought a smile to so many people, (I am thinking particularly here of his role in Patch Adams) be so sad? It's a tragic lesson of life that sometimes the funniest people are also the saddest. Depression is no discriminator. His death hopefully, will raise more awareness and understanding of the nature of this debilitating disease.

In light of all this, I can't stop thinking of this poem ever since yesterday. It's one I encountered on the syllabus for Junior Cert English students and have since, always remembered. A simple but powerful and poignant reminder that there are cracks beneath the veneer, tears beneath the smiles of even the brightest most entertaining people. Be on the watch. Be careful. Treat everyone with compassion. Happiness and sadness are two sides of the one coin after all; a coin that life is continually tossing into the air. 

Clown - Phoebe Hesketh

He was safe
behind the whitened face
and red nose of his trade,
vocation more certain
than doctor’s or priests
to cheer and heal.
Hidden away from himself
he could always make us laugh
turning troubles like jackets
inside out, wearing
our rents and patches.
Tripping up in trousers too long
he made us feel tall;
and when we watched him
cutting himself down,
missing the ball,
we knew we could cope.

What we never knew
was the tightrope he walked
when the laughter had died.
Nowhere to hide in the empty night,
no one to catch his fall.


  1. I had this on my test, and I wrote it was about depression and suicide, is that correct?

    1. There is no correct or incorrect answers when it comes to 'what a poem is about'. Your interpretation of the poem, with reasons fully explained & supported by evidence, is sufficient.


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