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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Autumn skies

Phone snap taken during a ramble down from the Canadian border
through Saranac Lake and Lake Placid and the Cascades.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, 
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; 
Conspiring with him how to load and bless 
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; 
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees, 
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; 
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells 
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, 
And still more, later flowers for the bees, 
Until they think warm days will never cease, 
      For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.  --from Keats, "To Autumn"

Indian Summer has left us, scattering yellow and red calling cards in its wake. We've had four snows already, though only one stuck around for a while. I've worn boots and winter coat already and need to lay in a new supply of wood for the fireplaces. Last night, after coming home from a Fellini-worthy ceremonial evening at St. George's in Schenectady, I found a pot of chocolate waiting on the stove. I'm not ready for the great brunt, though it is on its way, the relentless wheel gathering icicles and turning.

Here's a little poem for the season, one that recently appeared in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, an online 'zine edited by Christine Klocek-Lim. I wrote it after reading some Robert Walser poems. I didn't like them as much as I wanted to like them, but perhaps it is that pesky trouble of translation. (Also at Autumn Sky Poetry Daily: "I Met My True Love Walking" and "Epistle to F. D." The "True Love Walking" poem bears a slantwise relationship to Yeats's "Down by the Salley Gardens." "F. D. is that grand teller of his own marvelous story, Frederick Douglass.)

Sinking into the turf, demise presided over by leaves
and gambrel shapes and one distant purple mountain.

Landscape With Icefall

Imagine that a chandelier has fallen from the sky,
     And dangerous cut glass lies shattered on the ground.
Imagine red, red blood that runs through heaps of emeralds.
     Oh, no, not that: cold winter grass will never bleed.

Imagine crumpled winter leaves, still latched onto the tree,
     That shake and rattle out the news to winter winds.
Imagine the blue hills around the frozen lake hold still,
     That every swerving line of landscape’s packed with soul.

Imagine angels peering down in curiosity
     To see the glitter of that dropped chrysanthemum,
And how I have by some strange mortal magic thrust my grief
     Into the hills and lake, the grass and scattered ice.

Imagine that a chandelier has fallen from the sky,
     Its mighty shine shared out among the grass and stones.
The little demons of the hills slink into shade and cry
     Because my sorrow’s cold against their naked feet.

Lake Placid skating rink



  1. Thank you for your leave-dropping gift, reminding me of how much I miss life in the colorful lights and shadows of the Allegheny Mountains. 'Tis 83 degrees today on the Gulf coast and not a tinted, turning, tumbling leaf in sight. Autumn, though, for some people, can be a fearful time: either sleep or death of so much in Nature lurks on the horizon. My posting today about Emily Dickinson, in fact, contemplates that kind of anxiety; I would wager she enjoyed reading Keats.

    1. The close of my favorite leaf-falling poem: "It is the blight man was born for / It is Margaret you mourn for."

  2. At our latitude, the bees are still at work on the flowers--we are wondering whether warm days will ever cease--and the leaves have hardly started to change. Our weather could be Indian summer or it could be early fall.

    Do you know John Crowe Ransom's "Winter Remembered"? A bit formal, even if you will metaphysical; yet after years of not looking at it I remember a surprising proportion.

    1. When I was young, I dearly loved Ransom--just reread the poem and like it all over again. I like "caked with cold" and the blood running "small" and the whole idea of being unlike the fire, separated from cause and center.

      If you like Ransom, I'll bet you might like Charles Causley. Or already do.

      It has just--oddly--warmed up to 59, and I think that I might just go for a night walk around the village. I get a lot of work done in the winter here, but I will never make a Yankee.

    2. I will look up Causley, thanks.

      One's range of comfort does seem to be set in childhood.

    3. Charles Causley should be in your realm, all the same--he has some wonderful poems, including ballads, including some pieces that feel Ransom-kindred. Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin thought very highly of him, though he's still rather obscure on this side of the water.

    4. Actually I was referring to one's range of comfort with climate. As one who grew up near Cleveland, I handle the summer heat of Washington, but that of New Orleans wears me down. My stepmother grew up in Seattle, where it is never very hot or very cold, and found the dry summer heat of Denver hard to take.

      However, I do remember a quotation from someone regarding Aristophanes's view of Euripides, and running roughly "It is unlikely that a man will read with the same eye the poetry he first encounters at thirty as the the poetry he was taught to admire at seventeen."

    5. Ah, I was so sure you were doing a little poetic twist on the weather!

      My husband and I are weather-incompatible. One of us is always doomed to dislike our local weather. When we were in South Carolina (where I was born), Michael would get all pink and faint when crossing a summer parking lot! Now I freeze up N'oth....

  3. "The great brunt...the relentless wheel gathering icicles and turning."

    Love this wording. Even though we live not far from George and have likewise been enjoying gorgeously warm weather, we're bracing for winter. Our landlord, who used to come roaring through blizzards with professional excavating equipment, passed away in April, and every time I'm in the garage, I glance nervously at my new snowblower and wonder if it can duplicate even a fraction of the kindness he used to show us.

    1. Ah, that's interesting. Do you know each other in the realm of the real? (Whatever that is!)

      Loved your new turnip jack o'lanterns, so you seem seasonally prepared so far.... Our neighbor clears our walk with his snow blower, so we are spoiled. All we have to do is part of our short drive. And in the back, the alley gets cleared by others as well, so we are doubly-spoiled. That said, the snows here can be daunting when we have to do a lot of digging.

      Despite four snows (only one sticking at all), it's still not so bitter here. Right now it's 38F, but on Wednesday we're to reach a week-peak of 61F before rain brings us down again. 61 in November here--I'll go for a nice, long walk.

    2. Nope, George and I have never met, and I have no idea which of us found the other's blog first. He's in the city and I'm now an hour outside it, but I'm sure I'd enjoy running into him in person at some point.

      Thanks for the kind words about the turnips! But your daughter's green carven pumpkin is absolutely the best jack-o'-lantern I've ever seen.

      Our problem, when it comes to snow removal, is that we're 750 feet from the road. Our rent-a-grove is wonderful for its sylvan privacy and its silence, but last year's blizzard was a source of disquietude. If this winter doesn't give me a reason to test out the machine I've dubbed "the Red Dragon," I won't much complain.

    3. Up here lots of people clear such drives for $.... You can pay by the snowfall or by the year.

      Oh, I'll have to tell her.

      Perhaps you will bump into George--if so, you'll have to write about it. You will have to have a medievalism chat or something, so it fits on Quid Plura?


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.