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Remember: Walking in the poetry of Autumn: Lehigh Parkway

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Walking in the poetry of Autumn: Lehigh Parkway

The yellow leaves are unmistakable. The cold nights are more than noticeable. The sky itself has lost its hazy orange and grays and exploded into the deep blues of October afternoons and thick purples of October twilight. Autumn has arrived and with it, everything has changed.

Autumn is a frequent flyer in the annals of poets and naturalists. The slow death and decay masked by the most vibrant display of color that nature puts on provides an endless source of metaphor for thousands of authors. Autumn has nearly become a cliché because of its frequent use in verse. That said, as I strolled around the Lehigh Parkway on a recent evening I was again awed by autumn and in turn reminded of some of the weighty words that have described this season in ways that are endless in scope and beauty.

From Ode to Autumn by John Keats:

“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

On this particular evening, I could hear neither lamb nor cricket but I did in fact consider the absent presence of the lush season as I made my way along my favorite wooded trail. But like Keats, I was comforted in the presence of autumn around me and even in the promise of winter waiting in the wings. Keats acknowledged the season as a harbinger of death but was comforted by its promise. Autumn may be the season of nature’s mourning and eventual death but here, in the Parkway, it felt warmer than summer.

From To Autumn by William Blake:

“'The spirits of the air live in the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.'
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,
Then rose, girded himself, and o'er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.”

I will add the growing smell of decay to what Blake had to say if only because that slow stench of death is a great reminder of the promise of life that will be born come spring. Blake tells us that Autumn is “jolly” and that Autumn has left for us “a golden load.” Opening your eyes and staring across the wonderful expanses of nature in the Parkway lets you know exactly what that “golden load” was. It would seem that Blake and Keats are not too dissimilar in their feelings regarding our new season. Blake takes the comfort Keats felt in Autumn a step further. He considers Autumn a gift.

If nothing else, this season is fleeting. Before most have the chance to notice, the leaves will be missing and the growing cold of November will be upon them. I encourage you to get out and see this most poetic of seasons before it passes and another year is spent waiting for it to return. Get to the Parkway, get to South Mountain and see.

Still, the season does bring with it a certain sadness of passing. Change in itself is scary and most times unwanted. We grow comfortable in our routines. We grow comfortable seeing the same things day after day after day. Get into nature and blow your routine out of the water. I dare you. Breathe the cool air as deeply as your lungs will let you.

From I am the Autumnal Sun by Henry David Thoreau:

“I am the autumnal sun,
With autumn gales my race is run;
When will the hazel put forth its flowers,
Or the grape ripen under my bowers?
When will the harvest or the hunter's moon
Turn my midnight into mid-noon?
I am all sere and yellow,
And to my core mellow.
The mast is dropping within my woods,
The winter is lurking within my moods,
And the rustling of the withered leaf
Is the constant music of my grief....”



Blogger Joyce Marin said...

You missed an opportunity to share your poetic musings at Word Wednesdays in the Silk Lounge of the Allentown Brew Works.

If November makes you feel poetic, you can join the group, the 2nd Wednesday of the month (I think it's the 11th).

October 16, 2009 at 1:34 AM  

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