Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Summer Shifts to Autumn: St. Francis, Keats, and a Poem

Today during my pre-dawn run at the beach, I saw a man lifting his little dog to the water fountain so that he could drink.  Not the outdoor shower/foot rinsing station that was 10 steps away, but the water fountain clearly meant for humans.

My first thought was, how appropriate for the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, which is today. 

And yet . . . and yet, some part of me rebelled.

I've approached the subject of St. Francis from a more theological angle here.  I'm intrigued by the fact that the Church remembers St. Francis primarily as a lover of animals, while neglecting to mention the fact that he gave up enormous wealth as he cared for lepers and other outcast members of society--human members. 

I also spent some time thinking about the very subtle shift from Summer to Autumn that we're experiencing this week.  When I drove home at 7:15 last night, the sun was just finished setting--quite a difference in the angle of light from just a few weeks ago.

And this morning, with a stiff breeze blowing off the Atlantic, it felt less warm and drier.  Not cool, exactly.  But not that dragon breath of moist heat that we often experience.

I find myself thinking about Autumn, and one of my favorite Keats poems, "To Autumn" (find it here).  For those of you looking for a teaching/writing idea, here are some.  You could have students write about the autumnal elements that Keats includes and the figurative language that he uses.  You could have students write about the autumnal elements that Keats leaves out.  You could have them research what Autumn would have been like as Keats experienced it.  You could show the movie Bright Star and have them compare the experience of Autumn as a visual experience and the experience of Autumn as a reading experience.  You could have students write their own poems and require that they avoid all overused autumnal elements:  can they write an autumnal poem with no hay rides, no pumpkins, no colored leaves?

Here's a poem that I wrote years ago, after teaching the Keats poem and yearning for a more autumnal October:

Longing for a Keatsian Autumn

What I wouldn’t give for a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.
Instead we suffer fierce heat and a flowering
fecundity that threatens to pull our thatch-eves down.
West winds bring us nothing but a pall
of heavy humidity, a harvest of hurricanes.

I want to sing songs of other seasons
than this sweat soaked summer.
I want to be wooed by weather unSouthern.

I tire of this moist mouthed peninsula,
seasonless, cursed landscape of mangroves and swamp grass
that mocks our efforts to pretend that the Southernmost
tip of America has seasons other than warm and hot.

1 comment:

John Guzlowski said...

Thanks for the post, and for the reflections on St. Francis. Always one of my favorite saints. I think he appears in a couple of my poems.