Sept 23, 2013 Indian Summer

Readers,

the best response I got to last week’s poem and questions was astute antipodean Jennifer Ulichny’s opinion that of course, “Milton’s God” can’t be formal–it is about the Mass Pike, and that implies pure chaos. Very good point.
As for the Miltonian elements, well, the italicized lines were from Paradise Lost Book III, and if you’re betting that I am too lazy to look up what that means, exactly, right now, then a big payoff to you. Is it about Satan’s journey toward Earth to mess with Adam and Eve? Is it the battle scene? Can’t recall. I did enjoy the fact that Mr. Klug mixed reference to Milton’s best-known epic poem with reference to his best-known sonnet, the one that begins “When I consider how my light is spent,” and extols the constant virtue of those “who only stand and wait”–made hilarious by context.
It’s easy to feel, while standing and waiting on the Mass Pike, or I-465, or Riverside Drive, or while being awoken by your late-night neighbors, or while discovering the late charge not taken off your account, or while resigning ourselves to the fact that one more “urgent” thing is not getting done today, like time and the world are conspiring against us. In those moments maybe we can at least mouth the words of Richard Eberhart these late September days, and pretend like we have his patience and grace. This is a poem about creeping mortality, and way sunnier than such poems tend to be. Now is this poem free verse? I suppose so. But the repetition– The slant rhyme– The chiasmus– It’s also a formal analyst’s dream!
I come to find out that, though I’d never heard of him, Richard Eberhart (“rather be a rich Dr.”) was a really important mid-century poet and teacher, one of the first establishment voices to take beat poetry seriously, and a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner. He was also the U.S. poet laureate from 1959-61. He’s a man of whom it can be said that the best line in his wikipedia bio is “after serving as private tutor to the son of King Prjadhipok of Siam…” -ed.
INDIAN SUMMER
I saw my days as passionate integers,
They leaped upon the wind as leaves
Leaping upon the wind; not Spring leaves
Fixed; I see them all as Autumn leaves.
It is the season of my mellowest appetite,
And germane to my soul; cruel times forgot,
Unvexing, the joyful. Plain days unspecified.
The clear enchantment of dry exhalations!
I would speak a word deep and pure,
Pure and deep, deep, deep and pure.
And these Autumnal days speak for me here–
Realization–else what is Autumn for?
I think the Indian Summer’s long regard
Flanks all the days with resonance–
That I shall never be more richly blessed
Than I am breathing in it now.
-1950
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