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When Labor Day is over, I contemplate the seasons and the change from summer to fall. In Michigan, we have four distinct seasons. In literature we have seasons, also.
There are several kinds of "seasons", in my thinking.
There are the obvious seasons in books that use them for settings.
Mark Helprin uses and celebrates winter in his beautiful Winter’s Tale. It is also winter in Gutterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars. Winter adds to the problems of the characters in Cherryh’s Fortress of Ice.
Winter is a big part of what we remember in Dr. Zhivago by Pasternak when the candle lit in the frosted window attracts Yuris’ attention and the passengers help to dig out the train stranded in drifts.
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book shows us a terrible and poignant winter on the plains in The Long Winter. The Bronze Horseman by Simons has the ravages of a terrible winter in Russia in WW II and Maclean’s Ice Station Zebra is gripping in its setting of ice.
Bryson takes us on walk into summer in his A Walk in the Woods as he hikes the Appalachian Trail.
Pam from CA put up a video of a Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald duet of Summertime here that is superb:
It is spring in Alaska in the hilarious mystery Breaking Up by Dana Stabenow.
e e cummings celebrates the seasons in a poem Robyn quoted in Teacher’s Lounge: Learning to Think. Read the whole wonderful poem here:
anyone lived in a pretty how town
anyone lived in a pretty how town
with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did
and his spring poem is such a delight!
in just-e e cummings
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
whistles far and wee
and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's
when the world is puddle-wonderful
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
Emily Dickinson speaks:
Emily Dickinson (1830–86). Complete Poems. 1924.
Part Five: The Single Hound
A LITTLE madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown,
Who ponders this tremendous scene—
This whole experiment of green, 5
As if it were his own!
Part Two: Nature
A SOMETHING in a summer’s day,
As slow her flambeaux burn away,
Which solemnizes me.
A something in a summer’s noon,—
An azure depth, a wordless tune, 5
And still within a summer’s night
A something so transporting bright,
I clap my hands to see;
Then veil my too inspecting face, 10
Lest such a subtle, shimmering grace
Flutter too far for me.
The wizard-fingers never rest,
The purple brook within the breast
Still chafes its narrow bed; 15
Still rears the East her amber flag,
Guides still the sun along the crag
His caravan of red,
Like flowers that heard the tale of dews,
But never deemed the dripping prize 20
Awaited their low brows;
Or bees, that thought the summer’s name
Some rumor of delirium
No summer could for them;
Or Arctic creature, dimly stirred 25
By tropic hint,—some travelled bird
Imported to the wood;
Or wind’s bright signal to the ear,
Making that homely and severe,
Contented, known, before 30
The heaven unexpected came,
To lives that thought their worshipping
A too presumptuous psalm.
Then, there are the seasons of the heart. John Denver has a song about them here:
Seasons of the Heart (first stanza)
Of course we have our differences
You shouldnt be surprised
Its as natural as changes
In the seasons and the skies
Sometimes we grow together
Sometimes we drift apart
A wiser man than I might know
The seasons of the heart...
There are the seasons in a looser sense when certain books are published because they fit into the world where we are in our thinking or for when they will sell best.
For example, there are the big beach books for summer and the books about Iraq and about the administration because it is important to read them, now, and not twenty years from now when it is too late. Al Gore’s Assault on Reason is at the head of my list. Brandon Friedman has The War I Always Wanted, also.
There are the metaphors of seasons. The metaphor of the cycle of life and death as shown by the salmon returning to their home to spawn is an important part of Margaret Craven’s unforgettable story, I Heard the Owl Call My Name.
In her book Digging to America, Anne Tyler explores the seasons of two adopted children’s lives and that of their adoptive families.
Spring blooms in my mind in The Tempest as we hear Miranda reach out to her brave new world and there is the winter of King Lear’s old age in King Lear.
Several of Shakespeare's sonnets speak of the seasons and of winter. Find your favorites of those here.
and my favorite of those listed:
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall Death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st.
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Dylan Thomas celebrates our spring age of being green in Fern Hill.
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.
Keats explains the metaphors:
The Human Seasons
Four Seasons fill the measure of the year;
There are four seasons in the mind of man:
He has his lusty Spring, when fancy clear
Takes in all beauty with an easy span:
He has his Summer, when luxuriously
Spring's honied cud of youthful thought he loves
To ruminate, and by such dreaming high
Is nearest unto heaven: quiet coves
His soul has in its Autumn, when his wings
He furleth close; contented so to look
On mists in idleness--to let fair things
Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook.
He has his Winter too of pale misfeature,
Or else he would forego his mortal nature.
Shakespeare’s well known 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 death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.
I could not write this diary without including the other poems of Keats about summer and autumn that have several layers to consider. There is the lushness of description that lures us into his world and then the thought of what the season means in terms of life and death.
On The Grasshopper And Cricket
The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper's--he takes the lead
In summer luxury,--he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper's among some grassy hills.
Please read the whole Ode here:
Ode To A Nightingale
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thy happiness,--
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease...
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast-fading violets covered up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves...
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:--do I wake or sleep?
Please read the whole Ode to Autumn here:
Ode 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-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed 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-brimmed their clammy cell.
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-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed 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 cider-press, with patient look,
Thou 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...
What is your favorite season? What books or poems use the seasons to enrich us with descriptions or as metaphors of life?
What books did you take to the beach?
What books have you been saving for winter?
I have The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons set aside for winter reading.
LithiumCola has a wonderful diary:
The End of the End of the World
Literary Monthly has news:
plf515 has a wonderful book diary on Friday mornings early and all day.
pico has Literature for Kossacks on Tuesdays...not to be missed!
This week he discusses Emily Dickinson.
next week is Jorge Luis Borges...be there!