September 22, 2004

First Day of Autumn

How about a little Keats?

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.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

This is absolutely my favorite season, in part at least because it comes as a relief from summer, which I loathe.

But there is considerably more to it as well. Mr. John Keats, five foot two, reflects largely on the bounty of the season and I truly agree with that sentiment. But what I love the most is the feeling of the impending close of the cycle, the knowledge that in another few weeks the first frost will hit, the leaves will begin to turn and fall, and Nature will curl into her defensive huddle to begin the long winter sleep. I particularly love days with forty-five degree highs and steady drizzle. But I don't love them because they match some kind of inner moroseness. Rather, I find they make me extremely cheerful.

To me there is a certain melencholy pleasure in reflecting on the fleetingness of worldly things that is reflected in and enforced by the season. I suppose this is why I've always been drawn to stories like that of King Arthur - stories in which Man is able to temporarily bask in the light of a higher sun, only to see all that he has worked for swept away by the oncoming night of chaos. It isn't that I enjoy the downfall. Rather, the knowledge of the downfall makes me savor the achievement all the more for its fragility. (For you Tolkien Geeks out there, yes, I take this same pleasure in the story of the Noldor and the rise and fall of their kingdoms in Middle Earth.) I also get this feeling when reading Hawthorne, although there it is more atmospheric than anything else. No matter what the subject matter of the particular story, I can almost always smell the odor of dank leaves and drifting wood smoke, and hear the the sound of crows off in the distance swearing at each other as it comes down the wind.

A parallel that I've noticed is that I naturally turn more towards Baroque music, and that of Bach in particular, in the fall. I call this a parallel, because just as I think about the fleetingness of worldly things, I come more into that frame of mind to absorb glimpses and reminders of the permanance of higher matters. I've long argued here that Bach's music in particular seems to cause one's soul to resonate in harmony with the Music of the Spheres. In the hot, fat, lazy days of summer, this can be almost a hardship. In the more sober days of fall as we contemplate our little span on Earth, it is a positive delight.

God only knows why I'm like this. Perhaps it's an ancestral thing - a weirdo combination of Scots Presbyterianism with a measure of sunny but respectful Catholic sympathies. But there you have it. I love fall.

Posted by Robert at September 22, 2004 08:47 AM | TrackBack

Lovely post!

Posted by: Fausta at September 22, 2004 01:01 PM

Why, thank you!

Posted by: Robert the L.B. at September 22, 2004 02:03 PM

Yes, Keats; Yes, Fall. Wonderful post.

Posted by: Chan S. at September 22, 2004 03:38 PM

I love fall too, but not those cold drizzel-ass days we call North Carolina Blizzards. UGH! My most hated weather. But, back to your subject, the love of the ephemoral is an outstanding trait in Japanese culture. That's why they prize cherry blossoms. Are you sure there isn't some Shinto blended up with that Presbyterian background?

Gorgeous writing, BTW.

Posted by: Liz at September 22, 2004 03:43 PM

"North Carolina Blizzards" - A new one to me. Heh.

Posted by: Robert the L.B. at September 22, 2004 04:56 PM
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