My daily walk usually takes me past a long row of tall bigleaf maples. The trees are old, and the prevailing north wind has given them a southerly lean. The trunks are wide and gnarled, and a few of the lower branches of each tree graze the ground.
At this time of year the maples are coming into leaf. Yesterday, I stopped to look at the unfolding leaves, which are yellow-green as they emerge, flower-like, from the buds. As I looked, the following poem -- one of those old chestnuts that are sometimes difficult to see afresh -- came back to me.
Lucien Pissarro, "April, Epping" (1894)
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Robert Frost, New Hampshire (1923).
"But only so an hour" is right on the money: in a couple of days, the new maple leaves will have turned a slightly darker shade of green. "Leaf subsides to leaf" is very nice: the image of leaves sinking or settling or relaxing (outward and downward) as they open -- and as they, in time, fall -- is a lovely and a redolent one.
Lucien Pissarro, "The Dunmow Road from Tilty Wood" (1915)
Proud Change (not pleased in mortal things
beneath the Moon to reign)
Pretends, as well of Gods as Men,
to be the Sovereign.
Edmund Spenser, Epigraph to Canto VI, Mutabilitie (c. 1589) (spelling modernized).
Lucien Pissarro, "The Garden Gate, Epping" (1894)