"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Fall Reason, A Winter Reason

Rustic Porch Lanterns, December Dusk

According to the calendar, it's still autumn; but judging by six inches of snow on the ground, it's definitely winter. I like the way my friend Olynn describes it on her recent facebook post: "One week till first day of winter!! Yea!! Love first day of winter cause as soon as it gets here days start getting longer. Hate first day of summer cause when you are finally ready for lots of warm sunny weather...days start getting shorter." It seems so backward, doesn't it?

Miroslav Holub has written a couple of excellent poems for this transitional time of year. First comes the "yellow foliage" when there are still a few leaves to be seen and then at last the "reddish boniness" when it appears that all is lost.

Fingers of the autumn sun
fiddle with yellow foliage
outside. . . .
this year we are
immersed in history
like a web of light.

Miroslav Holub (1923 - 98)
Czech poet and immunologist
from his poem, "Philosophy of Fall"

And it is all over.

No more sweetpeas,
no more wide-eyed bunnies
dropping from the sky.

a reddish boniness
under the sun of hoarfrost,
a thievish fog,
an insipid solution of love,
and crowing.

But next year
larches will try
to make the land full of larches again
and larks will try
to make the land full of larks.

And thrushes will try
to make all the trees sing,
and goldfinches will try
to make all the grass golden,

and burying beetles
with their creaky love will try
to make all the corpses
rise from the dead,


Both poems translated by Stuart Friebert and Dana Habova;
in Holub's collection,
Intensive Care: Selected and New Poems, 1996

Even as Holub writes of the year's demise, he anticipates the coming cycle of renewed life, a new generation of sweetpeas, bunnies, thrushes, and beetles. Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 - 1950) looks from the opposite perspective, however, writing in "Sonnet XXXV" that even at the height of summer, she can feel the full weight of love's decline:

If in widening silence you should guess
I read the moment with recording eyes,
Taking your love and all your loveliness
Into a listening body hushed of sighs . . .
Though summer's rife and the warm rose in season,
Rebuke me not: I have a winter reason.

from "Clearly my ruined garden"
in Fatal Interview, 1931

If you have a winter reason, well, now's the time. But keep in mind the larches and the larks! As Olynn observes, just one short week to go before the days start getting longer . . .

Appropriate for any time of year is this beautiful closing thought from Holub's poem "United Flight 412":

" . . . where would we be
if love was not stronger than poetry
and poetry stronger than love?"

The Lanterns, Filled With Snow

Next Fortnightly Post
Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

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