Monday, November 23, 2009

`Illimitable Recollection'

“Then when the ample season
Warmed us, waned and went,
We gave to the leaves no graves,
To the robin gone no name,
Nor thought at the birds' return
Of their sourceless dim descent,
And we read no loss in the leaf,
But a freshness ever the same.”

Sunday was sunless. What looked like fog over the lake was weak rain. The landscape was gray, slate-blue and yellow ocher. Only maples hold their leaves and have turned a color from Vermeer’s palette. The mist reduces the human busy-ness of lakefront and hills terraced with houses. I found these lines in Basil Bunting’s “Chomei at Toyama”:

“Neither closed in one landscape
nor in one season
the mind moving in illimitable

We drove 12 miles to a YMCA for my nephew’s fifth birthday party and brought him books as gifts. Parties, even for very young children, have grown organized and official, with waivers to sign and handlers who remind kids not to fall down or punch each other. The boys and girls climbed apparatus like a well-appointed cage for the other primates. Adults played digitalized tennis with electronic rackets. The food was cold cuts and cake. The kids got goody bags and the party was over before the birthday boy opened his presents. When we left it was raining less insistently. Here’s the rest of the poem I started with, Richard Wilbur’s “Then” (from Ceremony and Other Poems, 1950):

“The leaf first learned of years
One not forgotten fall;
Of lineage now, and loss
These latter singers tell,
Of a year when the birds now still
Were all one choiring call
Till the unreturning leaves
Imperishably fell.”

I was impressed last month when Mike Gilleland at Laudator Temporis Acti worked references to Wilbur and Bunting (not to mention A.E. Housman and his brother) into a single post. For serious readers there are no warring tribes of writers, only good ones and lousy ones.

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