Poems of October... Poems of Fall

Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2003 04:48 pm
I have a feeling I've posted this poem before, on some other poetry thread, but it's worth reading again.

Splitting Wood
--Billy Collins

Frost covered this decades ago,
and frost will cover it again tonight,
the leafy disarray of this woodland

now thinned down to half its trees,
but this morning I stand here
sweating in a thin shirt

as I split a stack of ash logs
into firewood
with two wedges, an ax, and a blue-headed maul.

The pleasures here are well known:
the feet planted wide,
the silent unstoppable flow of the downswing,

the coordination that is called hand-eye,
because the hand achieves
whatever the concupiscent eye desires

when it longs for a certain spot,
which, in this case, is the slightest fissure
visible at one end of the log

where the thin, insinuating edge
of the blade can gain entry,
where the shape of its will can be done.

I want to say there is nothing
like the sudden opening of wood,
but it is like so many other things--

the stroke of the ax like lightning,
the bisection so perfect
the halves fall away from each other

as in a mirror,
and hit the soft ground
like twins shot through the heart.

And rarely, if the wood
accepts the blade without conditions,
the two pieces keep their balance

in spite of the blow,
remain stunned on the block
as if they cannot believe their division,

their sudden separateness.
Still upright, still together,
they wobble slightly

as two lovers, once secretly bound,
might stand revealed,
more naked than ever,

the darkness inside the tree they shared
now instantly exposed to the blunt
light of this clear November day,

all the inner twisting of the grain
that held them blindly
in their augmentation and contortion

now rushed into this brightness
as if by a shutter
that, once opened, can never be closed.
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satt fs
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2003 04:53 pm

Sigh 2
The last of autumn's winds blows in slanting, swirling rain,
The four seas and eight deserts join together in one cloud.
A horse going, an ox coming, cannot be distinguished,
How now can the muddy Jing and clear Wei be told apart?
The standing grain begins to sprout, the millet's ears turn black,
All the farming families now are left without hope.
In the city, a bucket of rice can be exchanged for a silken quilt,
And both the buyer and seller have to agree the bargain is fair.

Qiu Yu Tan
Du Fu

Lan feng fu yu qiu fen fen,
Si hai ba huang tong yi yun.
Qu ma lai niu bu fu bian,
Zhuo jing qing wei he dang fen.
He tou sheng er shu sui hei,
Nong fu tian fu wu xiao xi.
Cheng zhong tou mei huan jin zhou,
Xiang xu ning lun liang xiang zhi.

(An experiment of the transliteration from the original.)
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Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2003 05:02 pm
Piffka, did you know that Johnny Mercer -- whose lyrucs to "Autumn Leaves" you posted earlier -- also wrote the lyrics to another song about autumn? In fact, there's a track on one of Nancy Lamott's CDs in which she sings (beautifully) both songs together. I'm not sure how well the lyrics work by themselves, without the music behind them, but here they are for you to judge for yourself.

When October Goes

And when October goes,
the snow begins to fly.
Above the smokey roofs,
I watch the planes go by,
the children running home
beneath a twilight sky.
Oh, for the fun of them
when I was one of them

And when October goes,
the same old dream appears,
and you are in my arms
to share the happy years.
I turn my head away
to hide the helpless tears.
Oh, how I hate to see October go.

I should be over it now, I know.
It doesn't matter much
how old I grow,
I hate to see October go.
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satt fs
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2003 05:57 pm
Sigh 3
In Chang'an there are so many ordinary people,
Locked behind their gates and guarding their walls.
The old men don't go out, the weeds grow tall,
Children blithely walk through wind and rain.
The rustling rain hastens the early cold,
And geese with wet wings find high flying hard.
This autumn we've had no glimpse of the white sun,

When will the mud and dirt become dry earth?

Qiu Yu Tan
Du Fu

ChangAn fu yi sui bi shu,
Fan suo heng men shou huan du.
Lao fu bu chu chang peng hao,
Zhi zi wu you zou feng yu.
Yu sheng sou sou cui zao han,
Hu yan zhi shi gao fei nan.
Qiu lai wei zeng jian bai ri,
Ni wu hou tu he shi qian.

(An experiment of transliteration from the original.)
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Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2003 09:13 pm
Oh, while I was away you were all out-doing yourselves! I'm so pleased. Isn't it great to see Satt back here?

Satt -- Welcome! Welcome! Thanks for the pinyin transliterations. though I'm surely mangling the pronunciations, it is interesting to speak the words as well as possible and imagine how that Chinese sage could imagine things we still appreciate today.

Jjorge -- Another song? I love it. I could practically hear Frank Sinatra! Thanks. The E.D. poem is also great. I like the idea of a bird looking back.

Bree -- I didn't know about the other Johnny Mercer song, but you may have noticed I consider lyrics "fair game." Wink I'd like to hear that song sung. The Billy Collins poem is fantastic... having just done a little log-splitting this weekend, I can totally relate! There is poetry in everything if you are a poet. Lovely thing.

Gautam -- When you get back... are there any webcams that show Greenwich Park? I'm going to be looking. I'd love to see how it is appearing now.
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satt fs
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2003 09:28 pm
I know in general cases, sending a paragraph not readable by a receiver is not a meaningful act.
However for poems the rhythm of words in lines is very vital for appreciating them, you know. And I thought the original sound of the poem would be somewhat helpful.
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Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2003 10:28 pm
It does, Satt and I sound quite authentically Chinese to my uneducated ears as I pronounce those words. There is a solid rhythm and rhyme to them.

Here is an autumn poem from Archibald Macleish, a 2nd generation Scot who was born in Glencoe, Illinois in 1892. He won the Pulitizer Prize in 1933 for his poem, "Conquistador" which begins so well, "And the way goes on in the worn earth." He died in 1982.

Immortal Autumn
I speak this poem now with grave and level voice
In praise of autumn of the far-horn-winding fall
I praise the flower-barren fields the clouds the tall
Unanswering branches where the wind makes sullen noise.

I praise the fall it is the human season now
No more the foreign sun does meddle at our earth
Enforce the green and thaw the frozen soil to birth
Nor winter yet weigh all with silence the pine bough

But now in autumn with the black and outcast crows
Share we the spacious world the whispering year is gone
There is more room to live now the once secret dawn
Comes late by daylight and the dark unguarded goes

Between the mutinous brave burning of the leaves
And winter's covering of our hearts with his deep snow
We are alone there are no evening birds we know
The naked moon the tame stars circle at our eaves

It is the human season on this sterile air
Do words outcarry breath the sound goes on and on
I hear a dead man's cry from autumn long since gone

I cry to you beyond this bitter air.

I could wish for more punctuation but I think he was being modern. Wink
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Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2003 10:33 pm
Here is another Chinese poem translated by Arthur Waley, this one cited as anonymous.

The Cranes
The western wind has blown but a few days;
Yet the first leaf already flies from the bough.
On the dryng paths I walk in my thin shoes;
In the first cold I have donned my quilted coat.
Through shallow ditches the floods are clearing away;
Through sparse bamboos trickles a slanting light.
In the early dusk, down a valley of green moss,
The garden-boy is leading the cranes home.
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Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 11:32 am
Piffka wrote:

Jjorge -- Another song? I love it. I could practically hear Frank Sinatra!


My Dad was always singing around the house. He had a great voice.
'September Song' was one of his favorites. It's him, that I hear singing it.

He's gone now of course, past December,
...to wherever that is.
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Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 11:43 am
Jjorge -- Maybe January again?

Here's another poem from Edna (You know I can't help myself!):


I cannot but remember
When the year grows old --
October -- November --
How she disliked the cold!

She used to watch the swallows
Go down across the sky,
And turn from the window
With a little sharp sigh.

And often when the brown leaves
Were brittle on the ground,
And the wind in the chimney
Made a melancholy sound,

She had a look about her
That I wish I could forget --
The look of a scared thing
Sitting in a net!

Oh, beautiful at nightfall
The soft spitting snow!
And beautiful the bare boughs
Rubbing to and fro!

But the roaring of the fire,
And the warmth of fur,
And the boiling of the kettle
Were beautiful to her!

I cannot but remember
When the year grows old --
October -- November --
How she disliked the cold!

Edna St. Vincent Millay
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Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 12:36 pm
I like it very much. It's poignant (my favorite word of praise)
like so many of her poems.

Here's one by Patrick Kavanagh:


O leafy yellowness you create for me
A world that was and now is poised above time.
I do not need to puzzle out Eternity
As I walk this arboreal street on the edge of a town.
The breeze too, even the temperature
And pattern of movement is precisely the same
As broke my heart for youth passing. Now I am sure
Of something. Something will be mine wherever I am.
I want to throw myself on the public street without caring
For anything but the prayering that the earth offers.
It is October over all my life and the light is staring
As it caught me once in a plantation by the fox coverts.
A man is ploughing ground for winter wheat
And my nineteen years weigh heavily on my feet.
(Patrick Kavanagh)
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Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 01:41 pm
Nice. I like that Patrick Kavanagh (the infamous Patrick K., it says on a website!).

Here's the first few lines of a poem by Nelson Bentley, who taught Mr.P at the U.Wash. We went to a few taverns with him and also a dinner at his home. He tended to write exceedingly long poems... I don't know why. Have I mentioned that, imho, poems should not be too long? Nevertheless, I like his images, especially these.

Voices of Loneliness

In quiet undoored cathedrals of the autumn woods,
walking in fern-still aisles of solitude,
where strong tall trunks pillar the
muralled ceiling of sun-and-flame-colored

I hear the lonely searching voices singing their
songs, alone, and to no listening heart:
I feel the frosty air of the woods vibrant
with soundless cries: and knowing there is
no tongue to answer to their urgent needs, I
cry out silently, though I am torn with aching...

Again, I travel along the highway through the small hills and hear the chorus of the lost
and looking minds whose never-quiet thoughts
sprinkle the fields like rocks, and lie
strewn upon the face of the rolling land,
where one may pick them up, fondle them,
and say wonderingly: what a strange
enchanting stone.

(He goes on for forty more stanzas. Very Happy)
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Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 06:33 pm
Piffka wrote:

Have I mentioned that, imho, poems should not be too long?

I agree Piff. I've never been a fan of long poems either.

The only exception I can think of is Tennyson's 'In Memoriam.' (which I love)
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Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 09:10 pm
Helen Hunt Jackson (1830 - 1885)


The golden rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.

The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And astors by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook,

From dewey lanes at morning
The grapes' sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer.

But none of all this beauty
Which floods the earth and air
Is unto me the secret
Which makes September fair.

'Tis a thing which I remember;
To name it thrills me yet;
One day of September
I never can forget.
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Reply Thu 16 Oct, 2003 11:59 am
Thanks, that's a nice one, Edgar. I like the rhyming and especially all the color. It brings good memories of fall.

Here's a poem that looks at a specific personal moment in autumn...


Autumn eats its leaf out of my hand: we are friends.
From the nuts we shell time and we teach it to walk:
then time returns to the shell.

In the mirror it's Sunday,
in dream there is room for sleeping,
our mouths speak the truth.

My eye moves down to the sex of my loved one:
we look at each other,
we exchange dark words,
we love each other like poppy and recollection,
we sleep like wine in the conches,
like the sea in the moon's blood ray.

We stand by the window embracing, and people
look up from the street:
it is time they knew!
It is time the stone made an effort to flower,
time unrest had a beating heart.
It is time it were time.

It is time.

Paul Celan
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Reply Fri 17 Oct, 2003 08:13 am

Time sets the rivers flowing
Dark colors gently bless
The air is moist with knowing
The earth soft to the step

There is no grief in nature
just one sure steady pace
of springtime into summer
and autumn into grace
(Jonathan Young)
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Reply Fri 17 Oct, 2003 09:41 am
Nice, Jjorge. Love those last lines.

Here's one by William Allingham:

Autumnal Sonnet

Now Autumn's fire burns slowly along the woods,
And day by day the dead leaves fall and melt,
And night by night the monitory blast
Wails in the key-hold, telling how it pass'd
O'er empty fields, or upland solitudes,
Or grim wide wave; and now the power is felt
Of melancholy, tenderer in its moods
Than any joy indulgent summer dealt.
Dear friends, together in the glimmering eve,
Pensive and glad, with tones that recognise
The soft invisible dew in each one's eyes,
It may be, somewhat thus we shall have leave
To walk with memory,--when distant lies
Poor Earth, where we were wont to live and grieve.
0 Replies
the prince
Reply Fri 17 Oct, 2003 09:54 am
Brrrrr, it gets cold in the morning,
And my gardener has started complaining.
Mist is forming on my window's glass,
Damn, in my garden I cannot see the grass !!

I wish my neighbour had less trees,
I begged him to cut them, even said please.
His leaves make such a mess in my yard,
But he doesnt listen, that fat piece of lard !!

The trains have started getting late,
Leaves on the track, they berate,
I stand on the platform, shivering in the cold,
Is it really the chill or am I getting old ?

So it is gonna get really cold soon,
people will cover up, how will I lech or swoon ?
I have started slipping while playing football,
Damn, summer is really over and it is FALL !!!
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Reply Fri 17 Oct, 2003 11:14 am
<laughing> Great! So that's why we call it Fall! Oh, I'm inspired. I think I'll write a poem, too. I'll be back.

Indian Summer - 1968

Indian Summer... It sounds so rare!
Piebald trees, the harvest fair,
Charcoal o'erlays cloudy skies,
The blowing rain, tears in my eyes.
The brisk sunlight of shortened days...
Flowers gone, fields of hay and haze.
This is the way my life's gone on
Follow'ing our so small sun.

Dappled forests orange and red.
Alas, my August long has fled.
Am I to journey and far I roam
Mem'ries of fall can bring me home.
These nights I meet the tide of days
Remembering those little ways.
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Reply Fri 17 Oct, 2003 11:29 pm
Bookmarking a beautiful thread.
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