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CXXII

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

NOVEMBER

Underfoot, the leaves are damp and cold

Which yesterday were dancing with the breeze

In flashing pirouettes of red and gold

Set loose from still abundant canopies.

But now the bare-boned outlines of the trees

Are etched in black across a slate-gray sky.

The wind feels like a prelude to a freeze;

It may bring sleet when next it passes by.

It’s not the first time leaves have had to die:

The wind has sung their funeral dirge before,

But now it seems like every year that cry

Comes sooner and we seem to feel it more;

For every cycle has a single thrust:

What’s born of earth must soon return to dust.

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

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CXXXIII

 

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

Observation of nature concretely portrayed and mediated through metaphor in lyrical language:  If you can put all of that together you might almost verge on myth.  What I just wrote sounds pretentious, doesn’t it?  Let us then emphasize the word verge.

leafburning3

Autumn Ritual

Sonnet XLIII

A ceaseless motion, hub and rim and spoke:

The colors turn in endless cycles ‘round

From gold, to green, to yellow or red, to brown

On birch and chestnut, maple, elm, and oak.

Although the mists of time their movements cloak,

They do not rest for long upon the ground:

From earth, to roots, to branches; then back down

They dance in air , or up again in smoke.

leafburning1

So what becomes of those we pile and burn?

Trees owe the gods a tithe of what they make;

We send the offering up for them with rake

And match, ensuring that the wheel will turn

Once more from gold, to green, to red, to brown,

From earth, to roots, to branches, then back down.

Autumn3

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

CXII

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

Wordsworth thought Nature could teach us positive wisdom.  “One impulse from a vernal wood” could teach us more of “moral evil and of good” than all the sages.  I’ve never been able to derive that kind of positive propositional content from her (see entries XXIX and XLVI), but our observations of Nature can at times lead us to questions that are better perhaps than answers themselves.

Forest edge in summer. Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota, USA.

Forest edge in summer. Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota, USA.

A Question for Modern Men

Sonnet XXXIX

Every year the forest rains its leaves

And sleeps, and then starts over on a new

Springtime wardrobe.  Every day the dew

Catches sunlight, cufflinks on the sleeves

Of green along the arms that hold the eaves

Of the wood aloft.  Every hour the hue,

Leaf green, brown trunk, or shadowed depths of blue,

Reblends and shifts with light that each receives.

ForestEdge2

And whence is all this growth and all this change

Within such stubborn permanence of place?

Where every seed and leaf alights by chance,

What Virtue has the potence to arrange

The whole with such inevitable grace

And cadence Chaos into such a dance?

ForestEdge3

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Stars Through the Clouds

LXXXI

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

            It is now 1978-79, the third year of my classwork for the PhD in English at the University of Georgia.  My apprenticeship to the great Poets of the past was proceeding apace, in other words.  And I was fortunate to have as one of my closest friends Ted Georgian, a man working on his doctorate in ecology who shared my love of the mountains and of hiking.  So manner and matter were both being richly supplied.  The manner this time was the Pearl stanza, used only once before to my knowledge, in a medieval poem by a contemporary of Chaucer; the matter was the same water cycle I celebrated in the previous entry.  The combination was, I hope, more profound but no less playful.

Snow is one phase of the water cycle--here seen on Mount Currahee.

Snow is one phase of the water cycle–here seen on Mount Currahee.

A String of Pearls

The light lit on the light leaves, lost

All its momentum there, and made

A curious transition, crossed

Into the softer light of shade.

The leaves, new light shed on them, glossed

With new significances, played

A game of wit and lightly tossed

Off puns and paradoxes, prayed

The wind to answer.  She obeyed

And joined her most light-hearted voice:

Thus air-light leaves in serenade

May teach the spirit to rejoice.

"Air-light leaves in serenade":  Caras Galadon is a good place to hear them.

“Air-light leaves in serenade”: Caras Galadon is a good place to hear them.

The soul also rejoices when

The growling thunderstorm comes near

To scare away the heat that’s been

Clogging up the atmosphere.

The subtle intensity within

That’s not, but is akin to, fear

Is suddenly shattered by the din

That lets you know the thing is here.

With washing rain and lightning clear

The storm is sent; it has no choice

But to go on its wild career

And teach the spirit to rejoice.

"The growling thunderstorm comes near . . ."

“The growling thunderstorm comes near . . .”

Likewise the joyful mountain stream,

Hearing the voices of the leaves

And wind and rain and lightning, teams

Them all together; whence she weaves

One flowing tapestry which seems

A richer thing than man conceives

In sleep or in his waking dreams.

Beneath enchanted forest eaves

He hears it, and almost believes

It is a nymph’s or naiad’s voice.

It soothes, stings deep, enriches, grieves,

And makes the spirit to rejoice.

"Beneath enchanted forest eaves . . ."

“Beneath enchanted forest eaves . . .”

Rejoicing in the verbal skills

Displayed by her melodic strains,

The stream leaps lightly down the hills,

Spending all the speed she gains

In song and laughter, as she spills

Herself toward the coastal plains.

Gradually then her song she stills:

A stately current which contains

The echoes of a thousand rains,

She bows before a greater voice,

Flows all into it, yet retains

Her own full spirit to rejoice.

"A stately current which contains / The echo of a thousand rains . . ."

“A stately current which contains / The echo of a thousand rains . . .”

Rejoicing in the gift, the sea

Receives her homage and returns

The voices to the air, and we

Hear once again the song that burns

In Nature’s heart.  Wild and free,

Our own blood answers it and yearns

To fly with the light wind and see

The water’s path as it returns

To light on mountain leaves and ferns

And once more in the streams to voice

The song, where air-light-leaf-rain learns

To teach the spirit to rejoice.

And finally to the sea . . .

And finally to the sea . . .

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Reflections-Front Cover-2013-4-29

LVII

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

 

OK, it’s still February and still technically winter.  But Spring deserves lots of celebration (and anticipation), especially when you have to wait as long for it as I did in the middle seventies when I was living north of Chicago.  The seasons were made to speak to us of spiritual realities.  And so we have:

 

A POEM FOR PENTECOST SUNDAY (1975)

 

There is in Nature a strange ability

Given to the first young leaves in Springtime

To catch and hold the golden, streaming sunlight

And slowly release it back into the morning.

Each then becomes a burning tongue of fire,

Glowing green with oak or elm impatience

To get on with its summer occupation

Of turning into tree the soil and water

Sent up by roots, those ever-stretching branches

That search as far beneath the soil for water

As those above seek in the sky for sunlight.

These flame-tongued leaves are also tongues for speaking.

Are they moved by, or do they more, the breezes

That fan out, gently heralding the Springtime?

At any rate, it’s sure they pass the message.

From South to North, from tree to tree, they whisper,

“Awaken, for the Spring is surely coming!”

And slowly northward, like a swelling sea-wave,

Gently flows the glad rebirth of Nature.

God made her thus; so ‘twas no accident

That first by tongues of fire the message spread

That Man could be reborn—that Death was dead!

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://www.createspace.com/3562314 and order Stars Through the Clouds!  Also look for Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest book from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  https://www.createspace.com/3767346.

 

Donald T. Williams, PhD