Almost four years ago, to the day, I wrote the following post, and it seems so apropos to the time of year, to the photograph I took yesterday, that I hope you won't mind me re-posting it. My non-tennis elbow is flaring up under the pressure of marking an on-line assignment (which requires too much time at the keyboard) -- and I'll admit I may have spent more time than advisable on Twitter recently. Elbow, wrist, shoulders, and back are all threatening to rebel, and it seems wise to listen, not to sit typing a lengthy post.
And really, should one ever apologis
inge for re-visiting the brilliant Edna St. Vincent Millay? I think not! So without further ado, here's a late autumn post from 2007, still as relevant, I hope, as it was then.
Trusting, however, in closing, that for one year more it may be said of me by Harper & Brothers, that although I reject their proposals, I welcome their advances. (489)
And here's a sonnet written, appropriately enough, in the autumn of Millay's life, when she was about my age, mid-50s. It's a sonnet that testifies to Millay having recovered her powers after years of illness, depression, and little productive writing, and a sonnet worth savouring as we approach the end of autumn (sneaking up a bit too close to winter!).
Tranquility at length, when autumn comes,
Will lie upon the spirit like that haze
Touching far islands on fine autumn days
With tenderest blue, like bloom on purple plums;
Harvest will ring, but not as summer hums,
With noisy enterprise--to broaden, raise,
Proceed, proclaim, establish: autumn stays
The marching year one moment; stills the drums.
Then sits the insistent cricket in the grass;
But on the gravel crawls the chilly bee;
And all is over that could come to pass
Last year; excepting this: the mind is free
One moment, to compute, refute, amass,
Catalogue, question, contemplate, and see.
I love the way Millay works the octave, stretching its lyricism, building tension -- there's a certain fraught vulnerability to tranquility's tender beauty
of the tranquility
-- it's "at length" and only "touching far" places on the horizon. But I especially love the last four lines of the sestet, the buildup to the caesura and then that catalogue of evaluative processes so different from the strident achievements of summer, the move through "compute, refute, amass" all the way to that marvellously open "see." A "see" which, rhyming with the "free" above, is delivered with such triumph, at the end of the list of verbs, that we almost forgot that the mind is only free "One moment."