Monday, September 17, 2012

"The Long September Evening Dies"

As one might expect, the "Decadent" poets of the 1890s -- with their wistfulness, melancholy, and obsession with death -- found autumn to be congenial.  I confess that I, too, am a pushover for the autumnal dreamland (without the death).  Thus, although some might find it old-fashioned, quaint, and predictable, I am quite fond of the following poem by Arthur Symons, which has it all:  "mist-enfolded lanes," "a few faint stars," "lingering twilight" (which, of course, "wanes"), and a "darkening vale" -- not to mention "lover with lover wandering."

           Christopher Nevinson (1889-1946), "Near Leatherhead, Surrey"

            Autumn Twilight

The long September evening dies
In mist along the fields and lanes;
Only a few faint stars surprise
The lingering twilight as it wanes.

Night creeps across the darkening vale;
On the horizon tree by tree
Fades into shadowy skies as pale
As moonlight on a shadowy sea.

And, down the mist-enfolded lanes,
Grown pensive now with evening,
See, lingering as the twilight wanes,
Lover with lover wandering.

Arthur Symons, London Nights (1895).  Symons indicates in a note that the poem was written on September 12, 1891.

                           Christopher Nevinson, "The Weir, Charenton"


Acornmoon said...

What a beautiful and evocative poem. I would love to illustrate it one day.

Chris Matarazzo said...

I'm with you on this one, Stephen. This time of year excuses "old-fashioned, quaint, and predictable" the same way Christmas time excuses corniness and sentimentality. Maybe it is a lesson that we could all stand to lighten up a bit, in terms of our constant quest coolness and our obsession with finding that unattainable state of absolute originality.

Fred said...


Here's another pushover.

Stephen Pentz said...

acornmoon: thank you for visiting again, and for your thoughts. Yes, it is a poem that lends itself to illustration, isn't it?

Stephen Pentz said...

Chris: that is an excellent way of putting it. The idea of the "avant-garde" (especially as espoused by those who consider themselves to be so) has always aroused my suspicions. Most things have been done before, and often better the first time around. But I guess there is always a tendency in human beings to chase after the so-called "new."

Thanks for stopping by. It is always nice to hear from you.

Stephen Pentz said...

Fred: that's good to hear! I'm sure that you can find plenty of signs of autumn in the mountains around Tucson -- for instance, there must be some beautiful aspens up there.

As always, I appreciate you taking the time to visit and comment.

Fred said...


The mountains just north of Tucson, the Catalinas, are pretty much pine, but there is a stretch of aspen fairly high up by the cutoff to the ski site. It draws a fairly big crowd in October, just in time for the Oktoberfest up there at the ski site.

alice c said...

Oh dear - I am feeling quite droopy with autumnal gloom after your last three posts.

Even the razor-sharp Gurney line "Before their death trees have their full delight" cannot cut through the encroaching darkness and imminent demise.

Is there any hope? Is there life after autumn?

Bruce Floyd said...

Evening before last, about 7:30, my wife and I took our dog for his usual walk. My wife, surprised, noticing for the first time, said, "It sure gets darker earlier now."

"How," I asked her, "did you and I walk Archie from the middle of June until the middle of September and only this evening notice the light fails earlier now?"

September, as it topples into its second half now, drags by increments the minutes of sunlight, and if by sudden degree, a just-penned ukase, the twilight quickens its step, and we, baffled, ask, "Where did summer go?"

One of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems addresses this sudden realization that, my goodness, the summer has gone, flown away with yesterday.

As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away --
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy --
A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun,
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon --
The Dusk drew earlier in --
The Morning foreign shone --
A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
As Guest, that would be gone --
And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful.

Stephen Pentz said...

Fred: yes, I see from the Internet that there is something called the "Aspen Trail" or "Aspen Loop" up there. Years ago, I used to spend time out in the high desert of eastern Utah in autumn, and I would sometimes drive over to Rifle or Glenwood Springs in Colorado in order to see the aspens.

Thanks for the follow-up.

Stephen Pentz said...

alice c: they weren't intended to be gloomy! I was thinking they were more along the lines of "wistful" or "bittersweet." I think of autumn more as a culmination than a decline. With, of course, an undertone of mortality. Which is what Gurney is getting at in the line that you quoted, don't you think?

As always, thank you for your thoughts, and for visiting.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr Floyd: thank you very much for your thoughts, and for the wonderful poem by Dickinson, which I hadn't seen before. You are right on target. In fact, I was having similar thoughts this week, as I noticed (as you say, suddenly, it seems) that the sun had vanished so soon. It does creep up on you, and then, there you have it -- it has all changed.

Thanks again.