Tuesday, October 6, 2009
"...what gathered in the gloom?"
A lot of the trees are still green and we're a long way from first frost, but the darkness of autumn has really begun to close in. It's about 8 o'clock in the evening here, and it's been raining lightly since before dawn. The day never got bright. It was utterly gloomy. I find myself exaggerating the sound of that word in my mind: gloomy. The gloom is pervasive, as if gloom were the existential state of the world, the essence of being--everything we can know arises from the gloom, rests on the gloom.
The autumn gloom is not to be confused the dark states of the human mind. It's not a reflection or a source of sadness. It's the life-giving darkness, primordial. As I walked through the woods this morning, the deer stared at me through the darkness. Their coats have taken on the shadowy gray of winter, they are part of the gloom. The bright mushrooms are rotting into the fallen leaves, darkening and returning to the decay that produced them.
O gardener of strange flowers, what bud, what bloom,
Hast thou found sown, what gathered in the gloom?
What of despair, of rapture, of derision,
What of life is there, what of ill or good?
Are the fruits grey like dust or bright like blood?
From "Ave Atque Vale" by Algernon Charles Swinburne. The complete poem is here.
Mushrooms, Jan Fyt (1611-1661)