Friday, 9 November 2007


In Tavistock Square Gardens on Thursday it was very hard to resist scuffing up the golden leaves that littered the ground. Three minuscule squirrels were busily collecting – nuts? large round brown objects, at any rate, but the trees are mostly plane, so I’m not at all sure. Late as I was for a meeting, I couldn’t stop to scuff or to look. I had arrived in London on Monday – Guy Fawkes – and was staggered by the noise of fireworks that went on all evening. How do pets bear it? Our dogs, used to shooting going on all around, were unfazed by the only fireworks they’ve ever heard, when our neighbours decided to have a bonfire party (and inadvertently burnt down a tree, putting an end, I suspect, to further junketings); my mother’s dog lives in a village, and suffers agonies every year, as whizzes and bangs go on night after night, culminating in the local firework display. He has a fertile imagination, too, and almost imperceptible – to humans - displays in distant Torbay are greeted with dismayed quivers. I feel for him, but am glad that our two are so phlegmatic.

Travel to London and back was made pleasurable by the beauty of this year’s autumn colour, which reminded me of another favourite poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. The sadness is somehow inherent in the shortening days and the crispness in the air, though I am much more cheerful since I no longer commute daily to Edinburgh, leaving home in the morning and arriving back in the evening in the dark.

MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás 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 wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow's spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.


Lesley (El Zed) said...

I saw the most lovely volume of GMH's poetry in my local Barnes & Noble yesterday. I was just casually looking for Russian verse (for the Russian Reading Challenge) and there was this quietly beautiful black-and-white spine. An Everyman edition - and the only one of its kind I could see. If it's there next time I'm grabbing it!

Ann Darnton said...

I just love this poem. I studied Hopkins both at 'A' level and as an undergraduate and even that didn't manage to ruin him for me. The picture had me grieving because the people who own the wooded land right next to border have just cut down the beautiful trees that grew there in order to put in a security fence - what a sign of the times.
On the subject of pets and fireworks - some friends have just had a puppy who was entranced by the fireworks (albeit safely ensconced on the other side of double glazing) and sat and watched every single rocket, following it as it rose into the sky and then fell back to earth. I've never seen anything quite like it.

BooksPlease said...

On the subject of fireworks our cat hates them. She shivers and sinks low to the ground,sprints upstairs and hides behind a bed - so I hate them too. My granddaughter can't stand the loud bangs either.

What a sad poem and addressed to my namesake! I've always loved this time of year though and don't find it gloomy - I love the colours and the sense of nights drawing in and sitting in front of a glowing fire, not that we have a fire anymore, but you know what I mean.

Sally B said...

I really wish someone would invent noise free fireworks, I love to watch them but for a few nightat this time of year we have horses, dogs and cats all demented with fear. Why do they need to be so loud?

GeraniumCat said...

Lesley, I'm afraid I've only got a battered old paperback edition of Hopkins, perhaps one day I'll treat myself to a beautiful one.

Ann, I wish I could have studied Hopkins properly, though I must admit that, on the whole, it's some of the shorter poems I enjoy most. With the notable exception of The Wreck of the Deutschland, which is magnificent!

Margaret, there's a rather nice novel called Goldengrove by Jill Paton Walsh - don't know if you've come across it, but think you might like it...

Sally, I watched the Edinburgh Festival display one year and thought it truly wonderful, but I don't really need the bangs, which used to terrify me when I was a child.

My mother reports that the village had their display last night and the dog didn't get too upset - well, he managed a tripe stick when it was over, at any rate!

BooksPlease said...

Thanks, I haven't come across it - I'll look out for it.

GeraniumCat said...

Apologies, it's actually called Goldengrove Unleaving, I checked my catalogue later.