Worlds of Wanwood Leafmeal Lie

So, it’s October now. Isn’t it supposed to be… at least cool, rather than warm, outside? Ah well. I suppose this is Texas.

The title of this post is from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins called “Spring and Fall.” It runs as follows:

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

A beautifully written poem, though not terribly complex in its meaning. It comes to mind for two reasons, both of which are interesting but unrelated: it is now fall, and so (in theory) I should still be seeing “worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie”; also, I’m doing Gerard Manley Hopkins for my Junior Poet project.

Regarding JPo; it seems fitting to reference Hopkins this month, of all months, since my annotated bibliography is due November 2nd and thus I will this month finish Paul Mariani’s biography of Hopkins (I have about 70 pages left), read three books of literary criticism (I have two done, and need five), and read sixteen articles (I have four done, need twenty). That is a lot of reading to do over just thirty days; it comes out to about thirty pages a day, actually. So that’s what my life for the next month will be about, for the most part.

And regarding the fact that it is now fall; I find fascinating the question of seasonal preferences. Hopkins’ poem seems implicitly to say that fall is depressing, it being the dying of the natural world, and spring being its rebirth. But I actually prefer fall, as a season; that was the main reason I went to Rome Fall ’08 rather than Spring ’09. I’ve already explored the question of what it means for me to prefer winter to summer; it means I think of myself as being in combat with the world, rather than allied with it. What does it mean to prefer fall to spring?

It’s not that I like the fall holidays better than the spring. I’m not a big fan of Thanksgiving, Christmas (technically winter, but a lot of the buildup is in fall) is just OK, and I love Easter. Nor, I think, is it just that I dislike summer so much I want to be as far from it as possible – if that were the case, fall would be my favorite, since it leaves nine whole months until summer comes again, but I prefer winter to fall. But I don’t want to say it is because I hate nature, either, even though that seems a reasonable answer (my favorite season is when nature is dead, my second favorite is when it is dying)…

I think the answer, in the end, is that I prefer mourning to rejoicing. It’s not that I have a problem with nature being reborn, but I am more fascinated with its going away. It has a bittersweet feeling to it; spring is more triumphant, and a triumphant attitude seems out of place in this so fallen world.


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