Monday, November 4, 2019

The Last Walk in Autumn

O'er the bare woods, whose outstretched hands
Plead with the leaden heavens in vain,
I see, beyond the valley lands,
The sea's long level dim with rain.
Around me all things, stark and dumb,
Seem praying for the snows to come,
And, for the summer bloom and greenness gone,
With winter's sunset lights and dazzling morn atone.


 Along the river's summer walk,
The withered tufts of asters nod;
And trembles on its arid stalk
The boar plume of the golden-rod.
And on a ground of sombre fir,
And azure-studded juniper,
The silver birch its buds of purple shows,
And scarlet berries tell where bloomed the sweet wild-rose!


With mingled sound of horns and bells,
A far-heard clang, the wild geese fly,
Storm-sent, from Arctic moors and fells,
Like a great arrow through the sky,
Two dusky lines converged in one,
Chasing the southward-flying sun;
While the brave snow-bird and the hardy jay
Call to them from the pines, as if to bid them stay.


 I passed this way a year ago
The wind blew south; the noon of day
Was warm as June's; and save that snow
Flecked the low mountains far away,
And that the vernal-seeming breeze
Mocked faded grass and leafless trees,
I might have dreamed of summer as I lay,
Watching the fallen leaves with the soft wind at play.


Since then, the winter blasts have piled
The white pagodas of the snow
On these rough slopes, and, strong and wild,
Yon river, in its overflow
Of spring-time rain and sun, set free,
Crashed with its ices to the sea;
And over these gray fields, then green and gold,
The summer corn has waved, the thunder's organ rolled.


Rich gift of God! A year of time
What pomp of rise and shut of day,
What hues wherewith our Northern clime
Makes autumn's dropping woodlands gay,
What airs outblown from ferny dells,
And clover-bloom and sweetbrier smells,
What songs of brooks and birds, what fruits and flowers,
Green woods and moonlit snows, have in its round been ours!


I know not how, in other lands,
The changing seasons come and go;
What splendors fall on Syrian sands,
What purple lights on Alpine snow!
Nor how the pomp of sunrise waits
On Venice at her watery gates;
A dream alone to me is Arno's vale,
And the Alhambra's halls are but a traveller's tale.


Yet, on life's current, he who drifts
Is one with him who rows or sails
And he who wanders widest lifts
No more of beauty's jealous veils
Than he who from his doorway sees
The miracle of flowers and trees,
Feels the warm Orient in the noonday air,
And from cloud minarets hears the sunset call to prayer!


The eye may well be glad that looks
Where Pharpar's fountains rise and fall;
But he who sees his native brooks
Laugh in the sun, has seen them all.
The marble palaces of Ind
Rise round him in the snow and wind;
From his lone sweetbrier Persian Hafiz smiles,
And Rome's cathedral awe is in his woodland aisles.


Then ask not why to these bleak hills
I cling, as clings the tufted moss,
To bear the winter's lingering chills,
The mocking spring's perpetual loss.
I dream of lands where summer smiles,
And soft winds blow from spicy isles,
But scarce would Ceylon's breath of flowers be sweet,
Could I not feel thy soil, New England, at my feet!


At times I long for gentler skies,
And bathe in dreams of softer air,
But homesick tears would fill the eyes
That saw the Cross without the Bear.
The pine must whisper to the palm,
The north-wind break the tropic calm;
And with the dreamy languor of the Line,
The North's keen virtue blend, and strength to beauty join.
                                                                        ~John Greenleaf Whittier


6 comments:

  1. So many fabulous photos, Joanna! The line of geese at sunset and the other sunset one are my favorites and the goldenrod plume, as well. You could sell them as prints or cards, seriously! <3

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    1. Thanks Eliza...I'm so glad you like them! :) I don't really think my pictures are professional enough to sell, although I have been thinking about putting a little book together...sort of a printed, modified version of my blog with nature notes, poems and flower lore. Maybe something like Edith Holden's 'Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady', only I'm not an artist so would have to rely on my camera. :)

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks! Whittier's poems are all beautiful!

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  3. Joanna, I have that book. I love it. You should do one with your photography. Pick your best ones. You have some lovely woodland flowers and flowers from your garden. I love the white flowers you posted in this blog today

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    1. Yes it's a wonderful book and her artwork is so delightful! :) Thank you for the encouragement. It's all in my head, but I just need to get around to sitting down and putting it together!
      The little white flower are Threeleaf Goldthread (Coptis trifolia). They have shiny evergreen leaves and these tiny flowers appear in the spring but don't last long. It has yellow thread-like roots, hence the name, and was used by the Indians and early settlers to treat mouth sores.

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