Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bare ruined choirs

There’s nothing better than settling in to work on the sofa in the early afternoon on a grey day with a big cup of coffee, a generous slice of pumpkin bread, and the stereo spinning some happy (but still sufficiently background-y) dance tunes. Add in a burning stick of incense and a view of the wide, winding museum drive across the way, and you’ve got a recipe for several good hours of writing.

As I’ve been working in front of this window for the last few weeks and noticing how progressively much more of the museum drive I’ve been able to see as the trees shed their leaves—we’re down now to just a few hold-outs with their raggedy fringes of gold—I’ve often found myself muttering the first several lines from Shakespeare’s 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 seest 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 seest 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.
I love fall, but damn if it isn’t also such a sad time of year. No wonder we commemorate the dead in November, with All Souls, All Saints, and Veterans/Remembrance Day.


Bardiac said...

The "or none, or few" just blows me away every time. Devastating line.

Fall is better than snow!!!! It's winter now :/

Pamphilia said...

I always think of that sonnet too whenever I see yellow leaves. I had to memorize it in high school and I think it's programmed into my thought patterns every fall. Keats' "To Autumn" is also there (and a bit more hopeful).

Nope, not winter yet, still fall where I am. And I love the feeling for reading and writing as well.

Anonymous said...

If only I had majored in something that included memorizing actual English words. Somehow repeating "V=I times R... V=I times R..." doesn't really comfort me on cold days.

Unless I'm at a lab bench trying to fix equipment, but that doesn't happen very often.



ps Does "first outer inner last" count?

Dr. Virago said...

Many, geeky minds think alike, because I was *just* thinking of that same poem while looking out my study window! It's the half line "bare ruined choirs" -- especially with its spondaic first foot -- that gets me.

dhawhee said...


Oso Raro said...

Fall is such the season of mixed emotions, isn't it. I think primarily it's because of the slide into slow death, the change from summer is refreshing, but about now, the cold reality of months of snow, ice, and the browns and greys of the natural world can be oppressive and daunting.

Yesterday, I took a book and sat down by a nearby lake to read and enjoy a relatively warm day. I haven't been to to this park in a few weeks and as I approached I saw that indeed, the monochrome of brown/grey dominated the natural landscape in a manner that was both a new point of view as well as depressing. I only sat for a bit, as I had, as usual, underdressed and while temperate was not actually warm (enough) to linger underwrapped for more than twenty minutes.

Instead of Shakespeare, my mind wanders off into the pop melodies of depression, the Carpenters and the "Theme from the Valley of the Dolls."

Pamphilia said...

PS I always liked the way the 1609 quarto calls it "bare ruined quiers" with the pun on leaves in a book. It makes me think of a book that has come apart, its pages blown this way and that by the harsh autumn wind.

Flavia said...

Wow, what lit geeks we all are! I'm glad to know that I've got such a great fraternity, anyway!

And yes, Muse: that is an especially nice othographical pun.