Gaw looks for a bit of poetic consolation at what he finds to be a depressing time of year.
There are two sorts of people: those who welcome the clocks going back as it heralds the opportunity to wear nice woolly jumpers, sit by fires in pubs, and look out the window whilst feeling cosy; then there are others who fall into a mild depression as they say goodbye for months on end to the warmth of the sun, lots of daylight and the chance to wear shorts.
I’m in the mildly depressed camp. I think it gets worse as you get older; my grandmother thought so. I suspect the approach of seasonal gloom increasingly begins to symbolise our looming and inevitable descent into a more profound darkness (see? I told you).
Anyhow, some consolation is needed. Firstly, from a poet who was an accomplished miserabilist but who couldn’t help finding aspects of nature – birds in particular – rather heartening: RS Thomas.
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.
People tend to forget that Laurie Lee was chiefly a poet: his autobiographical works have overshadowed everything else he wrote. As a writer, he was keenly aware of the seasons, an awareness that helped him arrive at my favourite title of any literary work: As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning. A magical phrase, which encapsulates all the promise and freedom of summer. Of youth, too.
I grew up in the Cotswolds and the particularity of the descriptions in the poem below transport me back. Nevertheless, I feel its colour-drenched imagery is reminiscent of a post-Impressionist painting.
Field of Autumn
Slow moves the acid breath of noon
over the copper-coated hill,
slow from the wild crab’s bearded breast
the palsied apples fall.
Like coloured smoke the day hangs fire,
taking the village without sound;
the vulture-headed sun lies low
chained to the violet ground.
The horse upon the rocky height
rolls all the valley in his eye,
but dares not raise his foot or move
his shoulder from the fly.
The sheep, snail-backed against the wall,
lifts her blind face but does not know
the cry her blackened tongue gives forth
is the first bleat of snow.
Each bird and stone, each roof and well,
feels the gold foot of autumn pass;
each spider binds with glittering snare
the splintered bones of grass.
Slow moves the hour that sucks our life,
slow drops the late wasp from the pear,
the rose tree’s thread of scent draws thin –
and snaps upon the air.
Finally, another one concerned with trees, this by William Carlos Williams. It’s always the trees that get us thinking. Why is that?
All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.