Friday, October 19, 2012

"Late Butterflies"

At this time of year I often come across black and orange-banded woolly bear caterpillars on the sidewalks and paths.  After a winter's sleep, next spring they will become (I didn't know this: I looked it up) Isabella tiger moths.

Ah, but what of this year's moths and butterflies?

           James Cowie (1886-1956), "The Looking-Glass" (c. 1940-1950)

     Late Butterflies

October days
Red admirals
Flutter among
Falling leaves --
Flakes of the sun
Gone glittering --

Hurrying clouds,
Milkweed seeds
Blowing along,
Birds so loud
In the red leaves,
Robin all rusty
And shabby jay --
Alas, the admirals!

Last year they spun
Their silken shrouds
And died to life,
Only in spring
To spring awake
And cruise for colors
Through the green and green.

Now there's the end
Coming, November
Coming, storms
Of ice and snow.

We see the admirals
Sail forth to seasons
We some survive
Where they will not.

Day darkens and
We take our pity
Back in the house,
The warm indoors.

Howard Nemerov, Gnomes and Occasions (1973).

                                              James Cowie, "Pastoral"


Daniel said...

By a delightful coincidence -- surely meaningful -- I was reading this today on the BBC website ( and it put me in mind of a wonderful poem about butterflies you posted a couple of years ago called The Crossing, with that lovely, shudder-inducing line: "the fall of leaf / Across the shoulder of the northern world". I went scurrying off to find the poem to be pleasantly surprised that today's offering was another Nemerov poem. I adore your blog, but I've never posted before as I didn't want to bother you; however, I thought you might appreciate that piece of synchronicity. By the way, isn't "flakes of the sun" a perfect description of butterflies, leaves and October?

Thanks for sharing so many beautiful poems.

Daniel Voce

Stephen Pentz said...

Daniel: Ah, so the admirals are not doomed: they are migrating! That's a nice thought.

I like coincidences like the one you mention. It turns out that I was thinking of Nemerov this week as well. As I mentioned in my earlier post on "The Crossing," he is a wonderful poet of autumn, and I took out his poems this week because I had not read anything by him for a while. Hence, the "Late Butterflies" post.

Yes, "flakes of the sun" is very nice -- probably my favorite phrase in the poem.

Finally, thank you very much for the kind words about the blog. And as for not "want[ing] to bother" me with comments: comments are NEVER a bother. I am always delighted to receive them, since it gives me some assurance that what appears here is not simply disappearing into the air.

Thank you for being such a loyal visitor. I hope to hear from you again.

bruce floyd said...

If "comments are NEVER a bother" (my thoughts run akin to those of Mr. Voce about "bothering" you, may I post a charming Emily Dickinson poem about two butterflies:

Two Butterflies went out at Noon—
And waltzed above a Farm—
Then stepped straight through the Firmament
And rested on a Beam—

And then—together bore away
Upon a shining Sea—
Though never yet, in any Port—
Their coming mentioned—be—

If spoken by the distant Bird—
If met in Ether Sea
By Frigate, or by Merchantman—
No notice—was—to me—

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Floyd: thank you for the Dickinson poem. It goes well with "Late Butterflies," as well as with the butterfly migration information provided by Mr. Voce, doesn't it?

Rest assured, your comments are never a "bother." And I have particularly enjoyed the Dickinson poems that you have shared this autumn, given my lack of familiarity with her work.

Thanks again.