Did you know solitude is different from loneliness? Though many think the words mean the same, it is not the case. Loneliness refers to a state of feeling lonely. It is possible to feel lonely even when you are with people. But solitude refers to being alone. It means being by yourself and spending time with yourself. Many philosophers have appreciated solitude. In fact, the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, once said, ‘Ordinary men hate solitude. But the Master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realising he is one with the whole universe.’
The English poet, Alexander Pope, sings in praise of solitude in his poem ‘Ode on Solitude’, just as the title says. Though a man lives secluded, he can be happy if he has a small land to take care of. He wouldn’t have big ambitions and would feel content just by breathing the fresh air of his native. He surrenders to nature and enjoys being by himself. He does so because he feels tranquility.
Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,
In his own ground.
He feels happy even when he is all by himself because he has enough of everything for him. His cattle provide him milk, his fields food, his congregation clothes, and his trees give him shade during summer and firewood during winter. He doesn’t need to worry about making ends and spends time for himself.
Blessed is he who doesn’t need to worry about running out of time. He enjoys the drifting time and passing days because he can take care of himself. He is healthy and peaceful, so he is calm doing his routine in daytime and sleeps well at night.
Blest, who can unconcernedly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,
When he has enough time for himself, he learns many things and does everything with ease. When this happens, he reflects on his deeds, his memories, and on himself. He recalls his past and re-lives those happy moments. He understands about himself and can reveal his true self without fearing to be judged.
Sound sleep by night; study and ease,
Together mixed; sweet recreation;
And innocence, which most does please,
The last stanza ends with the poet asking to be granted such a life where he can live unnoticed by people and unknown to them. He doesn’t want people to mourn his death for he wants to leave this earth without regrets. When he dies, he doesn’t want to take anything from the world, not even a stone which marks his grave and let people know where he lays dead.
Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.
This poem shows us how self satisfying solitude can be. We keep running and running without ever knowing what we are after. So, by being alone and spending time with ourselves, we can know what we need and what we want to do. Thus, when you enjoy loneliness, it becomes solitude.