Listen, Study, Pray: Hesse, Keats, and Clifton

by The Rev’d Craig Lemming

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Today is the Autumnal Equinox. A time to listen to Jessye Norman’s legendary recording of Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs – particularly September. Only Jessye Norman’s voice is adequately burnished, generous, and subtle for Richard Strauss’s souring phrases and her exquisite diction consecrates every stanza of Hermann Hesse’s tender poetry. That French horn solo echoing the unmatched glory of Norman’s closing sentence – “Langsam tut er die großen müdgewordnen Augen zu” – is God’s music.

September by Hermann Hesse

The garden is mourning,
the rain sinks coolly into the flowers.
Summer shudders
as it meets its end.

Leaf upon leaf drops golden
down from the lofty acacia.
Summer smiles, astonished and weak,
in the dying garden dream.

For a while still by the roses
it remains standing, yearning for peace.
Slowly it closes its large
eyes grown weary.

It’s a time to study John Keats’ poem To Autumn.

To Autumn by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, —
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

And finally, it’s a time to pray with:

the lesson of the falling leaves by Lucille Clifton

the leaves believe
such letting go is love
such love is faith
such faith is grace
such grace is god.
i agree with the leaves.

May God’s beauty overwhelm each of us with abundant blessings this Autumn.

Faithfully,
Craig+

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