Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Last Summer Days

Gorgeous Indian-summer day in Portland; I had work up in the far northeast of Vancouver, Washington, monitoring infiltration tests though the lazy, sunny afternoon. Cool enough for crispness - the meadowgrass was white with frost when I arrived in the predawn - but warming to pleasantly shirtsleeve temperatures by afternoon. A light wind from the south bringing on it the dry tartness of fallen leaves, the sultry scent of woodsmoke, and the high, clear iciness of the late October sky.

It gave me time to sit on my tailgate, book neglected at my side, and just enjoy the beauty of the last of summer and the brief, bright autumn we pass through so quickly before the gray rains of winter begin.


When summer's end is nighing
  And skies at evening cloud,
I muse on change and fortune
  And all the feats I vowed
  When I was young and proud.

The weathercock at sunset
  Would lose the slanted ray,
And I would climb the beacon
  That looked to Wales away
  And saw the last of day.

From hill and cloud and heaven
  The hues of evening died;
Night welled through lane and hollow
  And hushed the countryside,
  But I had youth and pride.

And I with earth and nightfall
  In converse high would stand,
Late, till the west was ashen
  And darkness hard at hand,
  And the eye lost the land.

The year might age, and cloudy
  The lessening day might close,
But air of other summers
  Breathed from beyond the snows,
  And I had hope of those.

They came and were and are not
  And come no more anew;
And all the years and seasons
  That ever can ensue
  Must now be worse and few.

So here's an end of roaming
  On eves when autumn nighs:
The ear too fondly listens
  For summer's parting sighs,
  And then the heart replies.

~A.E. Housman (Last Poems)


Lisa said...

What a gorgeous day, and how marvelous to take in all the nuance. Autumn is my favorite time, yet so brief!

I love Housman:

Tell me not here, it needs not saying,
What tune the enchantress plays
In aftermaths of soft September
Or under blanching mays,
For she and I were long acquainted
And I knew all her ways.

On russet floors, by waters idle,
The pine lets fall its cone;
The cuckoo shouts all day at nothing
In leafy dells alone;
And traveller's joy beguiles in autumn
Hearts that have lost their own.

On acres of the seeded grasses
The changing burnish heaves;
Or marshalled under moons of harvest
Stand still all night the sheaves;
Or beeches strip in storms for winter
And stain the wind with leaves.

Possess, as I possessed a season,
The countries I resign,
Where over elmy plains the highway
Would mount the hills and shine,
And full of shade the pillared forest
Would murmur and be mine.

For nature, heartless, witless nature,
Will neither care nor know
What stranger's feet may find the meadow
And trespass there and go,
Nor ask amid the dews of morning
If they are mine or no.

FDChief said...

Tell me not here, it needs not saying,
What tune the enchantress plays
In aftermaths of soft September
Or under blanching mays,
For she and I were long acquainted
And I knew all her ways.


I'm glad you enjoyed my autumnal rumination. I did, as well.

Lisa said...

And one more I just stumbled across in an article on the changing leaf cycles in N. England -- this portending darker things, from Thoreau in 1862:

A village needs these innocent stimulants of bright and cheering prospects to keep off melancholy and superstition. Show me two villages, one embowered in trees and blazing with all the glories of October, the other a merely trivial and treeless waste, or with only a single tree or two for suicides, and I shall be sure that in the latter will be found the most starved and bigoted religionists and the most desperate drinkers

We ignore nature at our peril.

Anonymous said...

Autumn, to me, is the reminder each year of our mortality.

Earthly beauty that we enjoy for a brief span of time.

And then we're gone.


Lisa said...


That's it precisely; we are reminded of our brief time here, and things assume, to me, a great loveliness in their evanescence. Like Van Gogh, even fading beauty is achingly beautiful to me. The impulse of life is to bloom against all messages to the contrary. And then ...

Out, out, brief candle!