A Poem for Autumn

 

“In the following Sonnet #73 Shakespeare begins with a simple observation that in gazing upon him his lover sees only the remnants of age (“yellow leaves”) hanging upon the withered skeleton of his aging self (“bare ruined choirs” = leave-less trees).

“That Shakespeare was only 30 (probably younger) at the time he wrote the poem speaks to his ability to imaginatively command a scene he had not yet experienced. From that he expands to a meditation on death (“after the sunset fadeth in the west”) and in the third quatrain expands even that metaphor by likening his aging body/self as the last ashes of his burning youth.

“He pivots from these tokens of gloom to end on a positive affirmation of love, for as he tells his beloved he recognizes that it only makes his lover’s love stronger that he loves one who must soon leave (die).” (by Dr. Andrew Roth, Book Notes # 116)

Sonnet #73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see’st the twilight of such day

As after sunset fadeth in the west;

Which by and by black night doth take away,

Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the deathbed whereon it must expire,

Consumed with that which it was nourished by.

This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

 

Reflections on Life from an Ocean Beach

Cape Cod

by George Santayana in 1894

The low sandy beach and the thin scrub pine,
The wide reach of bay and the long sky line,—
O, I am sick for home!
The salt, salt smell of the thick sea air,
And the smooth round stones that the ebbtides wear,—
When will the good ship come?
The wretched stumps all charred and burned,
And the deep soft rut where the cartwheel turned,—
Why is the world so old?
The lapping wave, and the broad gray sky
Where the cawing crows and the slow gulls fly,
Where are the dead untold?
The thin, slant willows by the flooded bog,
The huge stranded hulk and the floating log,
Sorrow with life began!
And among the dark pines, and along the flat shore,
O the wind, and the wind, for evermore!
What will become of man?

Two Experiences of Being Black in America

These two poems by African Americans were written over 100 years ago.  Their messages of hope endure.   Even today, their words are timely and timeless.

Emancipation

Paul Laurence Dunbar

September  1890

Fling out your banners, your honors be bringing,
Raise to the ether your paeans of praise.
Strike every chord and let music be ringing!
Celebrate freely this day of all days.

Few are the years since that notable blessing,
Raised you from slaves to the powers of men.
Each year has seen you my brothers progressing,
Never to sink to that level again.

Perched on your shoulders sits Liberty smiling,
Perched where the eyes of the nations can see.
Keep from her pinions all contact defiling;
Show by your deeds what you’re destined to be.

Press boldly forward nor waver, nor falter.
Blood has been freely poured out in your cause,
Lives sacrificed upon Liberty’s alter.
Press to the front, it were craven to pause.

Look to the heights that are worth your attaining
Keep your feet firm in the path to the goal.
Toward noble deeds every effort be straining.
Worthy ambition is food for the soul!

Up! Men and brothers, be noble, be earnest!
Ripe is the time and success is assured;
Know that your fate was the hardest and sternest
When through those lash-ringing days you endured.

Never again shall the manacles gall you
Never again shall the whip stroke defame!
Nobles and Freemen, your destinies call you
Onward to honor, to glory and fame.

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We Are Marching

Carrie Law Morgan Figgs

1922

  1. We are marching, truly marching
    Can’t you hear the sound of feet?
    We are fearing no impediment
    We have never known defeat.
  2. Like Job of old we have had patience,
    Like Joshua, dangerous roads we’ve trod
    Like Solomon we have built out temples.
    Like Abraham we’ve had faith in God.
  3. Up the streets of wealth and commerce,
    We are marching one by one
    We are marching, making history,
    For ourselves and those to come.
  4. We have planted schools and churches,
    We have answered duty’s call.
    We have marched from slavery’s cabin
    To the legislative hall.
  5. Brethren can’t you catch the spirit?
    You who are out just get in line
    Because we are marching, yes we are marching
    To the music of the time.
  6. We are marching, steady marching
    Bridging chasms, crossing streams
    Marching up the hill of progress
    Realizing our fondest dreams.
  7. We are marching, truly marching
    Can’t you hear the sound of feet?
    We are fearing no impediment
    We shall never know defeat.

 

Love in the Time of War

By Joesph McLaughlin, Jr on  his 51st wedding anniversary.  (April 4, 2022)

Just as spring is putting on its mask,

The one that Edna* said, though beautiful,

Is not enough, except for April fools,

And just as we are throwing ours away,

The ones we hope to never wear again,

That kept us safe from coughs but not from war,

We cannot hide our eyes from suffering,

 

Reminded by the mask that’s on the screen

The greatest evils come not from without

But from within the hearts of men.  And yet,

By night we cleave together and by day

You do small things for me and I for you.

Yoshino blooms reach skyward like a prayer,

And April has made fools of us again.

Philadelphia, 2022

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* Notes: “…The one that Edna said…” 

                            To what purpose, April, do you return again? 

                            Beauty is not enough;;;. 

                            Not only underground are the brains of men 

                            Eaten by maggots. 

                            Life in itself 

                            Is nothing…

                            It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, .  

                            April 

                            Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

                                    From “Spring”, by Edna St. Vincent Millay