Wednesday, 30 November 2016

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

Sweet though in sadness

I’ve already recorded that I love Autumn (birthday, sense of new start with the new school year, colours of nature.) Of course I also love Winter, Spring and Summer – each season generates distinctive features that I appreciate but I feel unfeasibly cockle-warmed when walking through the “Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red” of Autumn woodland. The quotation is from Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind, one of the most famous poems about Autumn, a hymn to the wind, “thou breath of Autumn’s being.”

Only Connect

In the poem Shelley imagines all the seeds buried beneath the earth like corpses now, waiting to burst into life again and break through the soil in a few months’ time. He imagines the dead leaves blowing and falling like thoughts, carrying messages across the world. The West Wind is “Destroyer and preserver.” Currently he feels earth bound, trapped in Autumn, but witnessing the maelstrom of nature preparing for its next phase and wishing his words could travel through the air like leaves. Only connect cries the poem, as EM Forster was to write in Howard’s End. Listen! Hear the voices! Hear the spring of human consciousness! Winter is coming…. And then…?

Stanza V from Ode to the West Wind

by Percy Bysshe Shelley (published 1820) – written in a wood near the River Arno in Florence
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like wither'd leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken'd earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?