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Pedantic Babylon

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And the Mystery Sang Alive

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The Wistman

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                                                                          fall.jpg.fa99a1959d6027ed7b7b5e44e990e841.jpg

Here where I live in upstate NY the autumn colors were delayed in October, but are now fully awash at the opening of November.  The breath halts in the morning at sunrise on seeing the incandescent foliage as it readies for death.  Cabbage white butterflies flitter through stands of red sumac and remind of Robert Frost’s confrontation with nature’s design.  This symbol—the grandeur of autumn trees and grasses—like the finale song of the dying mute swan, is a perennial one so often used in the past that the power of the symbol now seems all but drained away.  Still, there are a few writers who can bring life to it, and to nature poems in general, so that they communicate deeply.  This one today is an October poem, a birthday poem, written in the mid-20th century.  The language used is fulsome, so best prepare to focus but also to relax.  These lines should roll over you.  You may even choose to read it aloud to yourself, so as to hear the music of the wordplay.

POEM IN OCTOBER

     It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
     And the mussel pooled and the heron
               Priested shore
          The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall
           Myself to set foot
                That second
     In the still sleeping town and set forth.

     My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
     Above the farms and the white horses
               And I rose
          In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
          Over the border
               And the gates
     Of the town closed as the town awoke.

     A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
     Blackbirds and the sun of October
               Summery
          On the hill's shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
          To the rain wringing
                Wind blow cold
     In the wood faraway under me.

     Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
    With its horns through mist and the castle
                Brown as owls
          But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
          There could I marvel
               My birthday
     Away but the weather turned around.

     It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky
     Streamed again a wonder of summer
               With apples
          Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child's
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
          Through the parables
               Of sun light
     And the legends of the green chapels

     And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
     These were the woods the river and sea
               Where a boy
          In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
          And the mystery
               Sang alive
     Still in the water and singingbirds.

     And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true
     Joy of the long dead child sang burning
               In the sun.
          It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
          O may my heart's truth
               Still be sung
     On this high hill in a year's turning.

                                                    - Dylan Thomas

 

 

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