Yesterday and today I was delighted to cross paths with two woolly bear caterpillars, banded black-dark orange-black, with four black dots running down the middle of their orange sections, and long white hairs angling out from their black front and back bands. Both of them were headed toward the dry grasses of the meadows, trees in the distance, with single-minded intent. I concluded that the two of them, on their missions, are among the most important things in the World.
September in Great Yarmouth
The woodwind whistles down the shore
Piping the stragglers home; the gulls
Snaffle and bolt their final mouthfuls.
Only the youngsters call for more.
Chimneys breathe and beaches empty,
Everyone queues for the inland cold —
Middle-aged parents growing old
And teenage kids becoming twenty.
Now the first few spots of rain
Spatter the sports page in the gutter.
Council workmen stab the litter.
You have sown and reaped; now sow again.
The band packs in, the banners drop,
The ice-cream stiffens in its cone.
The boatman lifts his megaphone:
'Come in, fifteen, your time is up.'
Derek Mahon, The Snow Party (Oxford University Press 1975).
September puts us in two minds and in two hearts, heart and mind alternating between summer and autumn. Last weekend, I walked past puddles from a night of rain. The puddles lay in a long row beneath a line of maples whose boughs are still mostly full. The dark surface of the water was a beautiful brocade of green leaves and brown leaves, floating in intricate, unrepeatable patterns, full of intimation.
Alexander Sillars Burns (1911-1987), "Afternoon, Wester Ross"
Are some of us born with autumnal souls? As a few long-time (and much-appreciated!) readers may recall, I have often described autumn as the season of bittersweet wistfulness and wistful bittersweetness. But it is not a season of sadness or melancholy. True, the line may be a fine one. But how could such beauty be an occasion of mourning? And so we welcome October.
A Day in Autumn
It will not always be like this,
The air windless, a few last
Leaves adding their decoration
To the trees' shoulders, braiding the cuffs
Of the boughs with gold; a bird preening
In the lawn's mirror. Having looked up
From the day's chores, pause a minute,
Let the mind take its photograph
Of the bright scene, something to wear
Against the heart in the long cold.
R. S. Thomas, Poetry for Supper (Rupert Hart-Davis 1958).
[Update on Friday, October 2. I published this post on September 30. I was shocked and greatly saddened to learn this morning that Derek Mahon passed away yesterday. His poems have appeared here dozens of times over the years. If I turn my head to the right, I can see a long line of his books on the shelf. I am at a loss for words. I will write more at another time. May he rest in peace.]
Ian MacInnes (1922-2003), "Harvest, Innertoon" (1959)