Sunday, October 02, 2011

`Beautie and Beauteous Words Should Go Together'

Ours was the house set furthest back from the street, giving us the largest front yard and smallest back. A line of silver maples grew in the neighbor’s yard, and we had two of our own. By October, the front lawn was blanketed with fallen leaves. We raked enormous piles and burned them in the gravel-covered driveway, creating a scent that has since been declared carcinogenic and illegal. It mingles in memory with the fragrance of sweet apples and acrid marigolds.

That’s where I learned about samaras, one of the natural world’s gifts to children. The principle is auto-gyration. We called them helicopters – the seeds of maples and ashes fitted with wing-like appendages. By slowing the rate of descent, the motion enables a seed to drift farther from the shade of the parent tree. We tossed handfuls in the air, delighted with our slow-motion confetti.

Anthony Hecht appends the first two lines of George Herbert’s “The Forerunners” to “Sarabande on Attaining the Age of Seventy-Seven,”from his final collection The Darkness and the Light, published three years before his death in 2004:

"The harbingers are come. See, see their mark:
White is their color, and behold my head."

    With age, Herbert worries, will poetry desert him? He tries to balance “Farewell sweet phrases, lovely metaphors” with “Thou art still my God,” intoned three times. Here is Hecht’s poem:

“Long gone the smoke-and-pepper childhood smell
Of the smoldering immolation of the year,
Leaf-strewn in scattered grandeur where it fell,
Golden and poxed with frost, tarnished and sere.

“And I myself have whitened in the weathers
Of heaped-up Januaries as they bequeath
The annual rings and wrongs that wring my withers,
Sober my thoughts, and undermine my teeth.

“The dramatis personae of our lives
Dwindle and wizen; familiar boyhood shames,
The tribulations one somehow survives,
Rise smokily from propitiatory flames

“Of our forgetfulness until we find
It becomes strangely easy to forgive
Even ourselves with this clouding of the mind,
This cinerous blur and smudge in which we live.

“A turn, a glide, a quarter turn and bow,
The stately dance advances; these are airs
Bone-deep and numbing as I should know by now,
Diminishing the cast, like musical chairs.”

The coming of autumn, more than any seasonal cusp, heightens the sense of time passing. The year flares in its death. Hecht at age seventy-seven writes: “The annual rings and wrongs that wring my withers.” And Herbert writes:

“Beautie and beauteous words should go together.”

1 comment:

Gary B in South Sudan said...

Beautiful, beautiful stuff. Many thanks.