Sunday, November 18, 2012

"The Consent"

During my afternoon walk, I pass beside a large field of wild grasses.  At this time of year, the field is a mixture of grey and tan and brown.  The field has no trees, save for a single crab-apple that stands at one edge of the field.  Its leaves have now all fallen.  A nearly perfect circle of gold, orange, and red lies on the ground beneath the tree's empty branches.

                               John Nash, "The Barn, Wormingford" (1954)

                      The Consent

Late in November, on a single night
Not even near to freezing, the ginkgo trees
That stand along the walk drop all their leaves
In one consent, and neither to rain nor to wind
But as though to time alone:  the golden and green
Leaves litter the lawn today, that yesterday
Had spread aloft their fluttering fans of light.

What signal from the stars?  What senses took it in?
What in those wooden motives so decided
To strike their leaves, to down their leaves,
Rebellion or surrender?  and if this
Can happen thus, what race shall be exempt?
What use to learn the lessons taught by time,
If a star at any time may tell us:  Now.

Howard Nemerov, The Western Approaches (1975).

Watching the crab-apple gradually lose its leaves each year is always a sad experience.  And seeing the circle that surrounds the empty tree in November comes as a sort of annual soft exclamation of finality, something like the "now" that closes Nemerov's poem.

Ah, but in Spring the crab-apple blossoms will be lovely.

                   John Nash, "The Lake, Little Horkesley Hall" (c. 1958)


susara said...

So beautiful on a still morning to watch leafrain. An old favourite by E.E. Cummings:




Such bare melancholy.

Stephen Pentz said...

susara: thank you for stopping by again, and for the poem by Cummings -- I hadn't seen it before. Very nice!

alice c said...

As I paused to look at the pool of dull gold leaves beneath the ginkgo trees outside my office I realised how my much my appreciation of autumn this year has been enhanced by your posts.

Thank you.

Stephen Pentz said...

alice c: that's very nice of you to say. As you know, there are so many wonderful poems about autumn that the difficulty lies in deciding what to include and exclude. Which is a fine dilemma to have, of course!

I'm pleased that you have been enjoying the poems. Thank you for visiting again.

Bovey Belle said...

Speaking of crab apples in November, I've just posted Edward Thomas's "After Rain" on my blog, where he also mentions them . . .

I will have to check the Ginkgo tree in the Museum grounds to see if its leaves have all fallen to earth yet.

Stephen Pentz said...

Bovey Belle: I had forgotten about the crab-tree in "After Rain" -- thank you for that. I've always liked the "little black fish, inlaid" of the ash leaves in that poem as well.

Thank you for visiting, and for your thoughts.