Frodo's autumns: poems by jan-u-wine with paintings by Millet and Carlsen.
Autumn is waning here in north-eastern Minnesota. This weekend the leaves are at their peak but they are about to fall. We are having what in the United States is called "Indian Summer", a time deep in the autumn when unseasonably warm weather grants what seems a return of summer. Knowing that it's a reprieve -- fleeting, not here to stay -- makes it all the more precious. Typically we would have had a hard frost by now. All the annuals would be dead, the perennial tops yellowed and wilted over their crowns, the leaves down. We'd be wearing jackets and mittens and caps, not sandals and t-shirts. The soft mildness is sweet, sweeter because one knows it will be gone any minute.
Perhaps something of the intense sweetness of this time, when the growing world is on the cusp between seasonal life and death, is captured in these two beautiful new poems. Frodo revels in the Shire's autumn, actual and remembered, the time when the colour and fragrance of the natural world -- as various and as intense as at summer's height, if the colours and scents are different -- is at its keenest, precisely because it is on the verge of being lost. If it is not to death, it is to something like death, when growth and the promise of life suddenly are no longer accessible to the senses. One must enter winter, head into the time of greyness, of dearth and want, sustained only by hope in what is hidden, but working its revivifying magic under the soil.
But that time is not come, not yet. Not here in Minnesota and not in the Shire of these poems. One more day has come when the natural world glows with topaz and ruby and garnet, living leaf-jewels twinkling in the soft fragrant air. One blast and down the leaves will come, all colour bled from the landscape, scents muted by frost. But not yet, not yet. The first of today's poems, "Autumn's Tale", is set in the fall of 1421. The second, "Tol Eressëaian Harvest", is set a few years later, across the Sea. These two complete a trio of fall Frodo poems, begun with The Hill of Home, posted last month. "The Hill of Home" is set in the previous year, the autumn of 1420.
Unremarked, the tramp'd miles
of the road this night,
sweet, wet earth smell
holding me close,
water’d moon shepherding a rose-milk
cloud swathed sun to its distant sea cradle.
And still I walk, birds
settling in the brake,
muted voices rising
like the friendly night, the almost-winter chill
lying in fog dips upon the way,
cobweb faerie-purses jewel'd and
shimmering like flet light,
the gold-brass of far-off harvest fires
smelling like gathered comfort,
like...... all that is Home.
My hand upon the gate, the woven pull wet-rough
within my grasp,
the flagstones of the path uneven and cold beneath
The tender nod of a candle
waits in the front window,
the door wide and summer-deep-green in its welcome.
When I have washed the tramp-mud from my feet
(the clarity of the fresh-drawn water finally ditch brown,
errant drops clinging,
amongst the tangles),
there is tea, and Bilbo's old chair and the hearth-fire.
It is good to be Home.
Tol Eressëaian Harvest
Crown'd trees fade,
slow and silent, beneath the opal smudge of burnt-velvet night;
Earendil's gem'd sail
marks, apace, a harvest moon.
Were I Home, truly, then, that is what it should be:
Harvest, moon orange as bonfire-lit
earth proud and joy-full
as a just-birth'd lass.
Merry fiddles and pig-skinned drums,
reels and rounds,
fraganc'd pipe-weed...... bitter golden ale......
Fields still ripe, somehow,
even with their beauty shorn and fallow-gleaming .....
Home is a world (and more) away,
dark waves running against an unseen,
Beneath a fragile moon-yolk,
sea pearls and crab-casings adorn the pale neck of this sundered shore,
faerie-light stitched like emerald fire upon the tide's foam'd hem.