"Summer Is Ended"
To think that this meaningless thing was ever a rose,
Scentless, colourless, this!
Will it ever be thus (who knows?)
Thus with our bliss,
If we wait till the close?
Tho' we care not to wait for the end, there comes the end
Sooner, later, at last,
Which nothing can mar, nothing mend:
An end locked fast,
Bent we cannot re-bend.
Christina Rossetti, A Pageant and Other Poems (Macmillan 1881). The title comes from Chapter 8, Verse 20, of the Book of Jeremiah (King James Version): "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved."
I have been reading Christina Rossetti's poems and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius for the past week or so. The poet and the emperor have provided me with daily reminders of our transience, evanescence, and mortality. They are two peas in a pod. One Christian, one pagan, but more alike than one might imagine.
"Consider frequently, how swiftly all things which exist, or arise, are swept away, and carried off. Their substance is as a river in a perpetual course. Their actions are in perpetual changes, and the causes subject to ten thousand alterations. Scarce any thing is stable. And the vast eternities, past and ensuing, are close upon it on both hands; in which all things are swallowed up. Must he not, then, be a fool, who is either puffed up with success in such things; or is distracted, and full of complaints about the contrary; as if it could give disturbance of any duration?"
Marcus Aurelius (translated by Francis Hutcheson and James Moor), Meditations, Book V, Section 23, in Francis Hutcheson and James Moor, The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (1742).
Eleanor Hughes (1882-1959), "Boleigh Farm"
The following poem is one of Christina Rossetti's many strange and wonderful contemplations, part autobiography, part religious confession, but withal a thing of Beauty and Truth. It is also a fine end of summer poem. The final two lines are two of the loveliest I know.
From Sunset to Star Rise
Go from me, summer friends, and tarry not:
I am no summer friend, but wintry cold,
A silly sheep benighted from the fold,
A sluggard with a thorn-choked garden plot.
Take counsel, sever from my lot your lot,
Dwell in your pleasant places, hoard your gold;
Lest you with me should shiver on the wold,
Athirst and hungering on a barren spot.
For I have hedged me with a thorny hedge,
I live alone, I look to die alone:
Yet sometimes when a wind sighs through the sedge
Ghosts of my buried years and friends come back,
My heart goes sighing after swallows flown
On sometime summer's unreturning track.
Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market, The Prince's Progress, and Other Poems (Macmillan 1875). There will be no attempt at explanation or explication from me. One thought, however: it is well to consider how the title of the poem relates to the poem itself.
"Sometime summer's unreturning track." "An end locked fast,/Bent we cannot re-bend." Ah, well, time will tell. Perhaps.
"Observe continually, that all things exist in consequence of changes. Enure yourself to consider that the nature of the universe delights in nothing more than in changing the things now existing, and in producing others like them. The things now existing are a sort of seed to those which shall arise out of them. You may conceive that there are no other seeds than those that are cast into the earth or the womb; but such a mistake shews great ignorance."
Marcus Aurelius (translated by Francis Hutcheson and James Moor), Meditations, Book IV, Section 36, in Francis Hutcheson and James Moor, The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.
Eleanor Hughes, "Boleigh Farm"