Thursday, November 8, 2007

poetry for an autumn evening

Because after this afternoon's comp class I need something to remind me why I do this, and because all things must pass (except possibly some of the comp students). Yeah, it's been one of those days that leave you feeling vaguely bruised all over, as only very bad classes can do, and I have a feeling it's too late in the semester to hope it will get better.

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou may'st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As on the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

-- William Shakespeare

The Wild Swans at Coole

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine and fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon these brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed, since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

-- W. B. Yeats


Sisyphus said...

Yeah, at a certain point in the quarter I always go, "well, this class is a write-off, but _next_ quarter I have bright hopes for!"

These poems make me want to have hot cider or herbal tea.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely pair these make -- thank you for giving them together.

I had a similar day (after teaching primary school English -- probably not unlike your comp classes, actually) last year, when I came home to Donne's St Lucy's Day. It restored me entirely.

Then I woke up the next day and looked at it again and flat-out wept. What was I thinking? What a depressing poem! Restorative? Ack! These are not quite as devastating, but they're hardly cheery -- amazing how this melancholy can be so soothing, at the right moment.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Sisyphus -- Yeah, next semester will be better ... I hope.

probably not unlike your comp classes, actually...

Hee! Unfortunately, you might be right in this case.

And that is my favorite Donne poem ever.

Renaissance Girl said...

Just to keep the theme alive...

'Spring and Fall, to a Young Child'

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

GM Hopkins

Renaissance Girl said...

"though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie"?! holy shit!

so much for anything i'll ever write....

Fretful Porpentine said...

Ohh yes, Hopkins invented the best words ever :)