Under the October Twilight

It is a letting go time of year. The light and leaves are dropping, the colours are fading, the fruits all gone, the seed pods blown. When I’m out walking or driving east along the coast, I see huge flocks of geese fly in formation, resolute in their destination. They fly so high that the tilt of my head as I follow them leaves me dizzy. I’m most pleased when I see an arrowhead of swans. I saw a flock of seven this week. Unlike the geese, they flew so low that I felt I should be able to hear their wings flap, but all was silent as they passed over the park in their ungainly elegance. And there was something plaintiff about their quiet passage, something so… October. Someone will know of their migratory patterns, as to where they were flying, but I did not, and it was that sense of watching them head off into the unknown so peacefully and purposefully that spoke to me of October. Particularly, the sight of them represents these last days of October, close to All Hallows’ Eve, when we remember the dead, when the veil between the living and the dead is said to drop a little, and, as Yeats said, when we might tread ‘with a lighter tread’ knowing there is a closeness to those who have flown.

The Wild Swans at Coole, WB Yeats

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

3 thoughts on “Under the October Twilight

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