Sunday, October 26, 2008

Melancholy, Thou Hast Thy Music, Too...

It's happened. Fall has come (and gone, with today's warm sunshine, but will come again).  On Thursday morning, we officially saw our breath and the overnight low dipped to 39. 

Or has it? The drought continues, giving the grass a bonus crunch. The mosquitoes are still biting. 

Nothing seems quite right.

Astrologers claim this is a result of some pretty dramatic planetary dancing. Pundits attribute it to the election. Common sense suggests a look at the financial crisis. 

All I know is that I am not feeling fall. And that is a bad, bad thing. 

Friends of Blue know I am prone to Fall Fever: giddiness, spurts of activity, glee, joy, and the tendency to lie on blankets with books.  The first symptom is the annual Keats Email, in which I expect my friends to share, once again, a sentimental attachment to A Beloved Poem. Last year, I experienced a second symptom, the first annual Keats Blog Post: a cry of bliss to the universe.

Earlier this month, I alluded to my autumn-ennui on these pages. I thought that might banish the funk, but it did not.  

Maybe I wasn't explicit enough. Maybe I need to summon seasonal joy in a different way. 

Maybe if one of Keats' Odes is good, two would be better?

So this year it's a two-fer. We're going to begin with "Ode on Melancholy." Feel free to skip the first stanza (I always do), but don't miss the opportunity to roll around in the gloom of the second and third.  If you sink into it, really feel it, you'll begin to feel better. And then you'll be ready for "To Autumn."  It's a wine-ripe apple of beauty.


Ode on Melancholy


NO, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
  Wolfs-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss’d
  By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries, 
  Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
    Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries;
  For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
    And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul. 


But when the melancholy fit shall fall
  Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
  And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose, 
  Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
    Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
    And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes. 


She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;
  And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
  Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight 
  Veil’d Melancholy has her
sovran shrine,
    Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
  His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
    And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

To Autumn


SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, 
  And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
  And still more, later flowers for the bees,
  Until they think warm days will never cease, 
    For Summer has o’er-
brimm’d their clammy cells.


Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
  Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
  Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; 
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
    Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
  Steady thy laden head across a brook; 
  Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
watchest the last oozings hours by hours.


Where are the songs of Spring?
Ay, where are they?
  Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, 
  And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a
wailful choir the small gnats mourn
  Among the river
sallows, borne aloft
    Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly
  Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
  The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
    And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You need to come to PDX. We are chock-frickin-full of Fall this week. Going for a leaf-gathering walk today or tomorrow so we can preserve some of that glorious and fleeting color in the privacy of our own home.

Verification word: "Piggrain." When eaten, it tends to smear the lipstick.