All of you have roped me back into this thread with all these beautiful, beautiful poems.... 'Wild Geese' in particular is a favorite.
Thank you Piffka for the poem for my Mom.
When I think of her I keep remembering Larkin's poem, 'Home is So Sad'. I had to go there this afternoon, and it is indeed sad.
My contribution for today is not about October exactly -I imagine it as late November or early December in New Hampshire- but for me it captures the aching feel of so many Autumn poems:
Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.
The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.
And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question "Wither?"
Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?
Aggie- Thanks for that selection... wonderful poems. "Late October" and choosing to wait for whatever Autumn offered -- very poignant and true. All of them perfect for this thread. I've grown fond of Sara Teasdale in the last year since receiving a thin volume of her work, "Dark of the Moon" -- she seems a kindred spirit.
Good to see you, Jjorge. I'm going to reread Larkin's poem and I will think of you and your home. I was so sorry to hear of your mom. I loved the Robert Frost poem -- sometimes he can really deliver, can't he? Such an elegant observer!
Edgar -- Please, go ahead and post at least some of that scene. I'd like to read it. Thanks for stopping in.
Tomkitten was kind enough to send me some compilations he put together for readings. Here are a few of the Halloween treasures. Thanks, Tomkitten, wherever you are!
Walter de la Mare (1920)
Up on their brooms the Witches stream,
Crooked and black in the crescent's gleam;
One foot high and one foot low,
Bearded, cloaked, and cowled, they go.
'Neath Charlie's Wane they twitter and twit,
And away they swarm 'neath the Dragon's feet.
With a whoop and a flutter they swing and sway,
And surge pell-mell down the Milky Way.
Betwixt the legs of the glittering Chair
They hover and squeak in the empty air.
Then round they swoop past the glimmering Lion
To where Sirius barks behind huge Orion;
Up, then, and over to wheel amain
Under the silver, and home again.
The Garden Seat
Its former green is blue and thin,
And its once firm legs sink in and in;
Soon it will break down unaware,
Soon it will break down unaware.
At night when reddest flowers are black
Those who once sat thereon come back;
Quite a row of them sitting there,
Quite a row of them sitting there.
With them the seat does not break down,
Nor winter freeze them, nor floods drown,
For they are as light as upper air,
They are as light as upper air!
And here's another by Hardy that I thought was worth a Halloween glance:
Read by Moonlight
I paused to read a letter of hers
By the moon's cold shine,
Eyeing it in the tenderest way,
And edging it up to catch each ray
Upon her light-penned line.
I did not know what years would flow
Of her life's span and mine
Ere I read another letter of hers
By the moon's cold shine!
I chance now on the last of hers,
By the moon's cold shine;
It is the one remaining page
Out of the many shallow and sage
Whereto she set her sign.
Who could foresee there were to be
Such letters of pain and pine
Ere I should read this last of hers
By the moon's cold shine!
Roxane alone. Two sisters, for a moment.
Ah! what a beauty in September's close!
My sorrow's eased. April's joy dazzled it,
But autumn wins it with her dying calm.
(She seats herself at the embroidery frame. Two sisters come out of the
house, and bring a large armchair under the tree):
There comes the famous armchair where he sits,
Dear faithful friend!
It is the parlor's best!
(The sisters go):
He'll be here now.
(She seats herself. A clock strikes):
The hour strikes.
--My silks?--Why, now, the hour's struck!
To be behind his time, at last, to-day!
Perhaps the portress--where's my thimble?. . .
Here!--Is preaching to him.
Yes, she must be preaching!
Surely he must come soon!--Ah, a dead leaf!--
(She brushes off the leaf from her work):
Nothing, besides, could--scissors?--In my bag!
--Could hinder him. . .
A SISTER (coming to the steps):
Monsieur de Bergerac.
Roxane, Cyrano and, for a moment, Sister Martha.
ROXANE (without turning round):
What was I saying?. . .
(She embroiders. Cyrano, very pale, his hat pulled down over his eyes,
appears. The sister who had announced him retires. He descends the steps
slowly, with a visible difficulty in holding himself upright, bearing heavily
on his cane. Roxane still works at her tapestry):
Time has dimmed the tints. . .
How harmonize them now?
(To Cyrano, with playful reproach):
For the first time
Late!--For the first time, all these fourteen years!
CYRANO (who has succeeded in reaching the chair, and has seated himself--in a
lively voice, which is in great contrast with his pale face):
Ay! It is villainous! I raged--was stayed. . .
By?. . .
By a bold, unwelcome visitor.
ROXANE (absently, working):
Ay, cousin,--the last creditor
Who has a debt to claim from me.
Have paid it?
No, not yet! I put it off;
--Said, 'Cry you mercy; this is Saturday,
When I have get a standing rendezvous
That naught defers. Call in an hour's time!'
Oh, well, a creditor can always wait!
I shall not let you go ere twilight falls.
Haply, perforce, I quit you ere it falls!
(He shuts his eyes, and is silent for a moment. Sister Martha crosses the
park from the chapel to the flight of steps. Roxane, seeing her, signs to her
ROXANE (to Cyrano):
How now? You have not teased the Sister?
CYRANO (hastily opening his eyes):
(In a comically loud voice):
Sister! come here!
(The sister glides up to him):
Ha! ha! What? Those bright eyes
Bent ever on the ground?
SISTER MARTHA (who makes a movement of astonishment on seeing his face):
CYRANO (in a whisper, pointing to Roxane):
Hush! 'tis naught!--
(Loudly, in a blustering voice):
I broke fast yesterday!
SISTER MARTHA (aside):
I know, I know!
That's how he is so pale! Come presently
To the refectory, I'll make you drink
A famous bowl of soup. . .You'll come?
There, see! You are more reasonable to-day!
ROXANE (who hears them whispering):
The Sister would convert you?
Nay, not I!
Hold! but it's true! You preach to me no more,
You, once so glib with holy words! I am
Astonished!. . .
(With burlesque fury):
Stay, I will surprise you too!
Hark! I permit you. . .
(He pretends to be seeking for something to tease her with, and to have found
. . .It is something new!--
To--pray for me, to-night, at chapel-time!
Good Sister Martha is struck dumb!
SISTER MARTHA (gently):
I did not wait your leave to pray for you.
(She goes out.)
CYRANO (turning to Roxane, who is still bending over her work):
That tapestry! Beshrew me if my eyes
Will ever see it finished!
I was sure
To hear that well-known jest!
(A light breeze causes the leaves to fall.)
The autumn leaves!
ROXANE (lifting her head, and looking down the distant alley):
Soft golden brown, like a Venetian's hair.
--See how they fall!
Ay, see how brave they fall,
In their last journey downward from the bough,
To rot within the clay; yet, lovely still,
Hiding the horror of the last decay,
With all the wayward grace of careless flight!
CYRANO (collecting himself):
Nay, nay, Roxane!
Then let the dead leaves fall the way they will. . .
And chat. What, have you nothing new to tell,
My Court Gazette?
CYRANO (growing whiter and whiter):
The nineteenth: having eaten to excess
Of pear-conserve, the King felt feverish;
The lancet quelled this treasonable revolt,
And the august pulse beats at normal pace.
At the Queen's ball on Sunday thirty score
Of best white waxen tapers were consumed.
Our troops, they say, have chased the Austrians.
Four sorcerers were hanged. The little dog
Of Madame d'Athis took a dose. . .
You hold your tongue, Monsieur de Bergerac!
Monday--not much--Claire changed protector.
CYRANO (whose face changes more and more):
Tuesday, the Court repaired to Fontainebleau.
Wednesday, the Montglat said to Comte de Fiesque. . .
No! Thursday--Mancini, Queen of France! (almost!)
Friday, the Monglat to Count Fiesque said--'Yes!'
And Saturday the twenty-sixth. . .
(He closes his eyes. His head falls forward. Silence.)
ROXANE (surprised at his voice ceasing, turns round, looks at him, and rising,
(She runs toward him crying):
CYRANO (opening his eyes, in an unconcerned voice):
What is this?
(He sees Roxane bending over him, and, hastily pressing his hat on his head,
and shrinking back in his chair):
Nay, on my word
'Tis nothing! Let me be!
But. . .
That old wound
Of Arras, sometimes,--as you know. . .
'Tis nothing, 'twill pass soon;
(He smiles with an effort):
See!--it has passed!
Each of us has his wound; ay, I have mine,--
Never healed up--not healed yet, my old wound!
(She puts her hand on her breast):
'Tis here, beneath this letter brown with age,
All stained with tear-drops, and still stained with blood.
(Twilight begins to fall.)
His letter! Ah! you promised me one day
That I should read it.
What would you?--His letter?
Yes, I would fain,--to-day. . .
ROXANE (giving the bag hung at her neck):
See! here it is!
CYRANO (taking it):
Have I your leave to open?
(She comes back to her tapestry frame, folds it up, sorts her wools.)
'Roxane, adieu! I soon must die!
This very night, beloved; and I
Feel my soul heavy with love untold.
I die! No more, as in days of old,
My loving, longing eyes will feast
On your least gesture--ay, the least!
I mind me the way you touch your cheek
With your finger, softly, as you speak!
Ah me! I know that gesture well!
My heart cries out!--I cry "Farewell"!'
But how you read that letter! One would think. . .
CYRANO (continuing to read):
'My life, my love, my jewel, my sweet,
My heart has been yours in every beat!'
(The shades of evening fall imperceptibly.)
You read in such a voice--so strange--and yet--
It is not the first time I hear that voice!
(She comes nearer very softly, without his perceiving it, passes behind his
chair, and, noiselessly leaning over him, looks at the letter. The darkness
'Here, dying, and there, in the land on high,
I am he who loved, who loves you,--I. . .'
ROXANE (putting her hand on his shoulder):
How can you read? It is too dark to see!
(He starts, turns, sees her close to him. Suddenly alarmed, he holds his head
down. Then in the dusk, which has now completely enfolded them, she says,
very slowly, with clasped hands):
And, fourteen years long, he has played this part
Of the kind old friend who comes to laugh and chat.
No, never; Roxane, no!
I should have guessed, each time he said my name!
No, it was not I!
It was you!
I see through all the generous counterfeit--
The sweet, mad love-words!
The voice that thrilled the night--you, you!
I swear you err.
The soul--it was your soul!
I loved you not.
You loved me not?
You loved me!
See! how you falter now!
No, my sweet love, I never loved you!
Things dead, long dead, see! how they rise again!
--Why, why keep silence all these fourteen years,
When, on this letter, which he never wrote,
The tears were your tears?
CYRANO (holding out the letter to her):
The bloodstains were his.
Why, then, that noble silence,--kept so long--
Broken to-day for the first time--why?
Why?. . .
(Le Bret and Ragueneau enter running.)
The same. Le Bret and Ragueneau.
What madness! Here? I knew it well!
CYRANO (smiling and sitting up):
He has brought his death by coming, Madame.
Ah, then! that faintness of a moment since. . .?
Why, true! It interrupted the 'Gazette:'
. . .Saturday, twenty-sixth, at dinner-time,
Assassination of De Bergerac.
(He takes off his hat; they see his head bandaged.)
What says he? Cyrano!--His head all bound!
Ah, what has chanced? How?--Who?. . .
'To be struck down,
Pierced by sword i' the heart, from a hero's hand!'
That I had dreamed. O mockery of Fate!
--Killed, I! of all men--in an ambuscade!
Struck from behind, and by a lackey's hand!
'Tis very well. I am foiled, foiled in all,
Even in my death.
Ah, Monsieur!. . .
CYRANO (holding out his hand to him):
Weep not so bitterly!. . .What do you now,
RAGUENEAU (amid his tears):
Trim the lights for Moliere's stage.
Yes; but I shall leave to-morrow.
I cannot bear it!--Yesterday, they played
'Scapin'--I saw he'd thieved a scene from you!
What! a whole scene?
Oh, yes, indeed, Monsieur,
The famous one, 'Que Diable allait-il faire?'
Moliere has stolen that?
Tut! He did well!. . .
How went the scene? It told--I think it told?
Ah! how they laughed!
Look you, it was my life
To be the prompter every one forgets!
That night when 'neath your window Christian spoke
--Under your balcony, you remember? Well!
There was the allegory of my whole life:
I, in the shadow, at the ladder's foot,
While others lightly mount to Love and Fame!
Just! very just! Here on the threshold drear
Of death, I pay my tribute with the rest,
To Moliere's genius,--Christian's fair face!
(The chapel-bell chimes. The nuns are seen passing down the alley at the
back, to say their office):
Let them go pray, go pray, when the bell rings!
ROXANE (rising and calling):
CYRANO (holding her fast):
Call no one. Leave me not;
When you come back, I should be gone for aye.
(The nuns have all entered the chapel. The organ sounds):
I was somewhat fain for music--hark! 'tis come.
Live, for I love you!
No, In fairy tales
When to the ill-starred Prince the lady says
'I love you!' all his ugliness fades fast--
But I remain the same, up to the last!
I have marred your life--I, I!
You blessed my life!
Never on me had rested woman's love.
My mother even could not find me fair:
I had no sister; and, when grown a man,
I feared the mistress who would mock at me.
But I have had your friendship--grace to you
A woman's charm has passed across my path.
LE BRET (pointing to the moon, which is seen between the trees):
Your other lady-love is come.
I loved but once, yet twice I lose my love!
Hark you, Le Bret! I soon shall reach the moon.
To-night, alone, with no projectile's aid!. . .
What are you saying?
I tell you, it is there,
There, that they send me for my Paradise,
There I shall find at last the souls I love,
LE BRET (rebelliously):
No, no! It is too clumsy, too unjust!
So great a heart! So great a poet! Die
Like this? what, die. . .?
Hark to Le Bret, who scolds!
LE BRET (weeping):
Dear friend. . .
CYRANO (starting up, his eyes wild):
What ho! Cadets of Gascony!
The elemental mass--ah yes! The hic. . .
His science still--he raves!
Said. . .
Mais que diable allait-il faire,
Mais que diable allait-il faire dans cette galere?. . .
Rhymer, brawler, and musician,
Famed for his lunar expedition,
And the unnumbered duels he fought,--
And lover also,--by interposition!--
Here lies Hercule Savinien
De Cyrano de Bergerac,
Who was everything, yet was naught.
I cry you pardon, but I may not stay;
See, the moon-ray that comes to call me hence!
(He has fallen back in his chair; the sobs of Roxane recall him to reality; he
looks long at her, and, touching her veil):
I would not bid you mourn less faithfully
That good, brave Christian: I would only ask
That when my body shall be cold in clay
You wear those sable mourning weeds for two,
And mourn awhile for me, in mourning him.
I swear it you!. . .
CYRANO (shivering violently, then suddenly rising):
Not there! what, seated?--no!
(They spring toward him):
Let no one hold me up--
(He props himself against the tree):
Only the tree!
It comes. E'en now my feet have turned to stone,
My hands are gloved with lead!
(He stands erect):
But since Death comes,
I meet him still afoot,
(He draws his sword):
And sword in hand!
ROXANE (half fainting):
(All shrink back in terror.)
Why, I well believe
He dares to mock my nose? Ho! insolent!
(He raises his sword):
What say you? It is useless? Ay, I know
But who fights ever hoping for success?
I fought for lost cause, and for fruitless quest!
You there, who are you!--You are thousands!
I know you now, old enemies of mine!
(He strikes in air with his sword):
Have at you! Ha! and Compromise!
Prejudice, Treachery!. . .
Parley? No, never! You too, Folly,--you?
I know that you will lay me low at last;
Let be! Yet I fall fighting, fighting still!
(He makes passes in the air, and stops, breathless):
You strip from me the laurel and the rose!
Take all! Despite you there is yet one thing
I hold against you all, and when, to-night,
I enter Christ's fair courts, and, lowly bowed,
Sweep with doffed casque the heavens' threshold blue,
One thing is left, that, void of stain or smutch,
I bear away despite you.
(He springs forward, his sword raised; it falls from his hand; he staggers,
falls back into the arms of Le Bret and Ragueneau.)
ROXANE (bending and kissing his forehead):
'Tis?. . .
CYRANO (opening his eyes, recognizing her, and smiling):
Hi Edgar. Well, it was long, but worth it. Those images of the dry leaf falling, the tapestry whose colors are fading and poor old Cyrano, even in death trying to be amusing. Sad...bittersweet...like Fall. Thanks.
Oh, I love that song! It's a nice reflection on the Cyrano de Bergerac piece and I'm going to add it. Hope you don't mind... some of the people who may read this won't know "all" the words.
All or nothing at all
Half love never appealled to me
If your heart never could yield to me
Then I'd rather have nothing at all
All or nothing at all
If it's love there is no in between
Why begin, then cry for something that might have been
No, I rather have nothing at all
But, please, don't bring your lips so close to my cheek
Don't smile or I'll be lost beyond recall
The kiss in your eyes, the touch of your hand makes me weak
And my heart may grow dizzy and fall
And if I fell under the spell of your call
I would be caught in the undertow
So, you see, I've got to say
All or nothing at all
Jack Lawrence ~Arthur Altman
Some people seem to be from a season. Billie Holiday? An Autumn... definitely.
That was lovely, Edgar.
And so now is the last day of October. When does Autumn end? It made me think of this Linda Pastan (thanks to Bree again) poem:
There is a hesitation
when the last live leaf, for instance,
waits to shrivel
or when spring gathers its green forces
beyond bare branches.
There is no odor
of smoke or lilac
the sky is no particular color.
But in those brief pauses
we mourn the past
even as we sense the future.
Shy as a girl on the blooded threshold
of being a woman.
we wait, holding our breath,
until the earth stirs
and shakes itself
and the next thing happens.
Whittier describes the insistent beauty of autumn, even through, and in spite of, our struggles and sorrows.
IMO he diminishes the poem however, when, in the last three stanzas, he turns it into a moral 'lesson'.
'THE BATTLE AUTUMN OF 1862'
The flags of war like storm birds fly,
The charging trumpets blow;
Yet rolls no thunder in the sky,
No earthquake strives below.
And, calm and patient, Nature keeps
Her ancient promises well,
Though o'er her bloom and greenness sweeps,
The battle's breath of hell.
And still she walks in golden hours,
Through harvest-happy farms,
And still she wears her fruits and flowers
Like jewels on her arms.
What means the gladness of the plain,
This joy of eve and morn,
The mirth that shakes the bread of grain
And yellow locks of corn?
Ah! eyes may well be full of tears,
And hearts with hate are hot;
But even-paced come round the years,
And nature changes not.
She meets with smiles our bitter grief,
With songs our groans of pain;
She mocks with tints of flowers and leaf,
The war-field's crimson stain.
Still, in the cannon's pause, we hear
Her sweet thanksgiving psalm;
Too near to God for doubt or fear,
She shares the eternal calm.
She knows the seed lies safe below
The fires that blast and burn;
For all the tears of blood we sow
She waits the rich return.
She sees with clearer eye than ours
The good of suffering born,
The hearts that blossom like her flowers
And ripen like her corn.
Oh, give to us, in times like these,
The vision of her eyes;
And make her fields and fruited trees
Our golden prophecies.
Oh, give to us her finer ear;
Above this stormy din,
We, too, would hear the bells of cheer
Ring peace and freedom in.
(John Greenleaf Whittier)
I agree, Jjorge. Was it a sign of his times that he needed to make it so? I think that the implications of a violent war in the midst of a beautiful autumn are lesson enough. Here's another view of conflict in the fall.
Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio
In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.
All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.
Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other's bodies.
I agree, Jjorge. Was it a sign of his times that he needed to make it so? I think that the implications of a violent war in the midst of a beautiful autumn are lesson enough.
As I understand it two of the common failings (by today's standards) of many Victorian poets were that:
(1.) they tended to be 'flowery' or melodramatic,
(2.) they often felt the need to draw moral lessons in their poems.
An example that comes to mind is Emersons (I think)
"...Tell me not in mournful numbers
life is but an empty dream,
for the soul is dead that slumbers
and things are not what they seem.
Life is real, life is earnest
and the grave is not it's goal
dust thou art to dust returnest
was not spoken of the soul...."
I suspect you are exactly right, Jjorge. (Gosh, it is good to have you back!)
Aggie -- Yes, we need November poetry. It is different from October -- so much bleaker & cold, I think. Must admit, my memory is not the greatest and I cannot remember from one year to the next, just which poems I posted, what threads I've started. For all I know, there is a Novembe thread!
So, another thread and leave this one 'til next October, God willing?