"All the rocks were covered, and the grass that overhung the banks like combed hair drifted sideways in a mild brown current. The air was full of dusty sunlight and a slow fall of yellow elm leaves. The woods decay, the woods decay and fall, thought Janet, recalling favorite poems with a pleasurable melancholy. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. When icicles hang by the wall."
Pamela Dean, Tam Lin
I love-LOVE-how much this passage evokes autumn, and the way autumn and poetry seem to go hand in hand. I know I am always thinking of scraps of poems when I see falling leaves and autumn mists. And pleasurable melancholy is just right.
Autumn is over the long leaves that love us,
And over the mice in the barley sheaves;
Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,
And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.
The hour of the waning of love has beset us,
And weary and worn are our sad souls now;
Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us,
With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.
-W.B. Yeats, “The Falling of Leaves”
Yeats and autumn just seem to go together.
"Our female forebears, our re-found heroes, must be worthy by the standards imposed on us both by patriarchal culture and by ourselves. In seeking heroes, we still, it seems, seek to please the social standards that constrain us, and silence, ignore, or avoid those female forebears who make past and present mores uncomfortable. Some women, like Annabella, are too mean: they are the angry mad women in our collective attics. Others, (in)curiously, are too meek, too goody-goody to be worth noting (they don’t fit the check-list of modern ideas of agency). Blanche of Castille, Jane Seymour, Queen Tiye, Anne of Brittany: good wives and sisters and daughters, women who suffered and served. They make us uncomfortable, by fitting the social roles laid out for us too well. As male-dominated history judges us – not significant, not valuable, not important – so we judge other women from our collective pasts and consign them to continued silence. Women of the past must make us proud, and to do so, they must live up to our present-day needs. To justify ourselves, we need a history full of successes: we must answer the questions well – see our female Shakespeares (Lady Murasaki, Aphra Behn), our female politicians (Emma of Normandy, Matilda of Flanders, Wu Zetian), our musicians (Hildegarde, Fanny Mendlesohn) and artists (Frida Kahlo, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun) and astronomers (Caroline Herschel). We don’t have space for the silent or those who failed for whatever reason to shine. We can’t afford them, though histories worldwide are full of undistinguished men. For women, even now, only the best will do."
Had we but world enough and time…
From this post by Kari Sperring, which I find myself thinking about all the time.
With apologies to Andrew Marvell. Also, I’m sure I’m not the only person in the history of the internet to make this joke, but I couldn’t resist.