Saturday, October 11, 2008

Another Poem About Leaves

O'Hara has now got me thinking about leaves.  This EA Robinson poem is an older one, but contains so many great lines that it cannot be ignored. This one is an excellent poem for October.  Were Robinson writing this poem today, I wonder, would a lack of rhyme and repetition make it weaker or stronger?

Luke Havergal

Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal,
There where the vines cling crimson on the wall,
And in the twilight wait for what will come.
The leaves will whisper there of her, and some,
Like flying words, will strike you as they fall;
But go, and if you listen she will call.
Go to the western wall, Luke Havergal--
Luke Havergal.

No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies
To rift the fiery night that's in your eyes;
But there, where western glooms are gathering,
The dark will end the dark, if anything:
God slays Himself with every leaf that flies,
And hell is more than half of paradise,
No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies--
In eastern skies.

Out of a grave I come to tell you this,
Out of a grave I come to quench the kiss
That flames upon your forehead with a glow
That blinds you to the way that you must go.
Yes, there is yet one way to where she is,
Bitter, but one that faith may never miss.
Out of a grave I come to tell you this--
To tell you this.

There is a western gate, Luke Havergal,
There are the crimson leaves upon the wall.
Go, for winds are tearing them away,--
Nor think to riddle the dead words that they say,
Nor any more to feel them as they fall;
But go, and if you trust her she will call.
There is a western gate, Luke Havergal--
Luke Havergal.

--EA Robinson, Collected Poems, Macmillan, 1937
O'Hara's poem is all about tone, and he demonstrates mastery of it--plus, who can resist a poem in which a leaf is put to task for falling?  I know I can't. 

Frank O'Hara Worries about a Leaf

Les Ettiquettes jaunes

I picked up a leaf
today from the sidewalk.
This seems childish.

Leaf! you are so big!
How can you change your
color, then just fall!

As if there were no
such thing as integrity!

You are too relaxed
to answer me.  I am too
frightened to insist.

Leaf!  Don't be neurotic
like the small chameleon.

--Frank O'Hara
Meditations in an Emergency, Grove Press, 1957