I have no choice in the matter, of course. These thoughts are merely human wishful thinking. The story of our lives. The wind does as it pleases.
This week, however, was the best of both worlds: four days of blue skies, with a steady breeze that cleared the clouds, but which was not strong enough to bring down the leaves, most of which are not yet ready to let go. One might imagine that this could go on for ever.
Wind that is in orchards
Playing with apple-trees
Soon will be leagues away
In the old rookeries.
Vaguely it arises,
Swiftly it hurries hence: --
Like sudden beauty
Blown over sense:
Like all unheeded
Beautiful things that pass
Under the leaves of life,
Just touching the grass.
F. W. Harvey, September and Other Poems (Sidgwick and Jackson 1925).
James McIntosh Patrick, "Autumn, Kinnordy" (1936)
Passing through sublimity, autumn brings us to simplicity.
The wind has brought
enough fallen leaves
To make a fire.
Ryōkan (translated by John Stevens), in John Stevens, One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryōkan (Weatherhill 1977), page 67.
There is a message in this simplicity, but I shan't be dogmatic about it. I will only say that the messengers from the non-natural world try their best to complicate life, when it is actually very simple. "Everything passes and vanishes;/Everything leaves its trace."
Blowing from the west,
Fallen leaves gather
In the east.
Buson (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 4: Autumn-Winter (Hokuseido Press 1952), page 362.
Is it a matter of "what to make of a diminished thing"? (Robert Frost, "The Oven Bird.") Perhaps. But here is another way of looking at it: "Now I can see certain simplicities/In the darkening rust and tarnish of the time,/And say over the certain simplicities." (Howard Nemerov, "A Spell before Winter.")
James McIntosh Patrick, "Wellbank, Rossie Priory"
On the road to simplicity, one departs from the Land of Know-It-Alls and the Kingdom of Opinions. Ah, what a relief that is! No more explanations, no more agendas, no more hectoring. No more "news." A wondrously unknowable world.
Often I've heard the Wind sigh
By the ivied orchard wall,
Over the leaves in the dark night,
Breathe a sighing call,
And faint away in the silence,
While I, in my bed,
Wondered, 'twixt dreaming and waking,
What it said.
Nobody knows what the Wind is,
Under the height of the sky,
Where the hosts of the stars keep far away house
And its wave sweeps by --
Just a great wave of the air,
Tossing the leaves in its sea,
And foaming under the eaves of the roof
That covers me.
And so we live under deep water,
All of us, beasts and men,
And our bodies are buried down under the sand,
When we go again;
And leave, like the fishes, our shells,
And float on the Wind and away,
To where, o'er the marvellous tides of the air,
Walter de la Mare, Peacock Pie: A Book of Rhymes (1913).
"Nobody Knows" appears in one of Walter de la Mare's collections of "children's verse." But de la Mare's poems for children are like Christina Rossetti's "nursery rhymes": they are ostensibly directed at an audience of children, but the wisdom of the poems belies this seeming limitation.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling
The wind is passing thro'.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads
The wind is passing by.
Christina Rossetti, Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book (1872).
James McIntosh Patrick, "Stobo Kirk, Peeblesshire" (1936)
And, yes, what is autumn without a visit to mortality? We all know what lies at the heart of the season's sublimity, what gives the wind and the leaves their wistful and bittersweet beauty. Autumn is, after all, life itself, presented to us for a few breathtaking days that rush away as we try to hold on to them.
"Undertake each action as one aware he may next moment depart out of life."
Marcus Aurelius (translated by Francis Hutcheson and James Moor), Meditations, Book II, Section 11, in Francis Hutcheson and James Moor, The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (1742).
Here is an alternative, perhaps more piquant, translation:
"Manage all your actions and thoughts in such a manner as if you were just going to step into the grave."
Marcus Aurelius (translated by Jeremy Collier), Ibid, in Jeremy Collier, The Emperor Marcus Antoninus, His Conversation with Himself (1702).
What is autumn saying? The same thing that the World is saying: Pay attention. Live.
The autumn wind is blowing;
We are alive and can see each other,
You and I.
Masaoka Shiki (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 3: Summer-Autumn (Hokuseido Press 1952), page 413.
James McIntosh Patrick, "Byroad near Kingoodie" (1962)