First frost

26 October 2013 § Leave a comment

26 October

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky . . .

(Yeats, from The Wild Swans at Coole, 1919)

It happened a few days ago during this halfweek of solitude.  My parents left again, my telephone was raptured,* and Cold, that wintry spectre, arrived.  My social activities for the week consisted of taking care of Molly, a little dog nearby involves driving through the mist-fog/veil of enchantment lying low over the mountains round seven each morning, when it is now dark, and the neighbourhood is quiet.  After breakfast and her insulin injection, we go into the garden and play, and the grass is faintly luminescent, gleaming in the late moonlight.  It’s just the same in the evening, dark again, but with a curling up rather than a stretching out feeling.

Driving over the river is different now, too; the mist lies low over the water, which is usually still and eerily glassy and reflects the thin clouds that loom so near; and on the windier days the choppiness calls to mind not a restless river but an oceanic disturbance.  Monday was so blustery that the wind howled and screamed; I was studying on the fourth floor of the science building and the ginkgo trees in the courtyard contorted themselves with rough grace.

Ginkgo biloba yellow

Yesterday, I took care of two little children who always make me laugh.  They had just gotten a puppy, a tiny kitten-sized wriggle of fluff who was very cute and did not bark once.  The girl chattered about how she would like to change her name to Elizabeth.

—[me]  Don’t you like your name?
—[fidgeting]  Can I call you Elizabeth?  Can I call you ice?  [continuing in the same manner]
—You can call me anything you’d like.
—[her two-year-old brother]  Ice . . . ice . . . baby . . .

The rest of the day, she called me Elizabeth, which her mother later found confusing.

It would be perhaps more fitting to post a Frost poem, but I have not been reading Frost lately.  Last night, I finished reading a volume of Yeats’s collected poems, a book whose jacket states that it includes all of the poems that Yeats authorised for his standard canon.  Of course the reader is left wondering which poems said canon excludes and where he can find these apocryphal verses.

Yeats Collected Poems

The editor does not (surprisingly) teach at Wake Forest, whose press turns out perhaps the finest editions of Irish poetry in North America.

Read it; you will find vast and varied musings on humanity and lives lived; looks rushy and long at the ways in which two people grow together and apart; and lush, yawning spinning of Irish folk and fairy tales.  (The last I found difficult to follow at times, indicating the necessity of studying such tales.)

You will learn of wisdom

And wisdom is a butterfly
And not a gloomy bird of prey

and of love,

And her hair was a folded flower
And the quiet of love in her feet

of youth

I too have rhymed my reveries, but youth
Is hot to show whatever it has found,
And till that’s done can neither work nor wait

and of age,

Though leaves are many, the root is one;
Through all the lying days of my youth
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;
Now I may wither into the truth

of time

Rose of all Roses, Rose of all the World!
You, too, have come where the dim tides are hurled
Upon the wharves of sorrow, and heard ring
The bell that calls us on; the sweet far thing.
Beauty grown sad with its eternity
Made you of us, and of the dim grey sea.
Our long ships loose thought-woven sails and wait,
For God has bid them share an equal fate;
And when at last, defeated in His wars,
They have gone down under the same white stars,
We shall no longer hear the little cry
Of our sad hearts, that may not live or die

and of mortality,

What’s dying but a second wind?

and read lines you know in their proper context:

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams:
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

(He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, 1899)

Winter in Kenya (August 2012)

Winter in Kenya (August 2012, during the neversummer)

Here is another in its entirety:

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book.
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

(When You are Old, 1893)

And of course The Second Coming, which has fascinated me since I began to study it a year ago.

*The screen suddenly turned white with streaks of darkness radiating from a corner, seemingly prompted by nothing.

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