Sunday, September 26, 2010

Childhood Autumn

Song at the Beginning of Autumn
Now watch this autumn that arrives
In smells. All looks like summer still;
Colours are quite unchanged, the air
On green and white serenely thrives.
Heavy the trees with growth and full
The fields. Flowers flourish everywhere.

Proust who collected time within
A child's cake would understand
The ambiguity of this --
Summer still raging while a thin
Column of smoke stirs from the land
Proving that autumn gropes for us.

But every season is a kind
Of rich nostalgia. We give names --
Autumn and summer, winter, spring --
As though to unfasten from the mind
Our moods and give them outward forms.
We want the certain, solid thing.

But I am carried back against
My will into a childhood where
Autumn is bonfires, marbles, smoke;
I lean against my window fenced
From evocations in the air.
When I said autumn, autumn broke.

Elizabeth Jennings, 1926 – 2001
Understated, unassuming, British poet

" . . . a childhood where / Autumn is bonfires, marbles, smoke
I lean against my window . . . "

This innocent autumn scene by artist Eloise Wilkin (1904-1987) appears in her illustrated edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's Child's Garden of Verses (click on the picture to enlarge the text for reading Stevenson's, "Autumn Fires"). Known for her darling portrayals of chubby-cheeked children, Wilkin worked for Simon & Schuster, illustrating Little Golden Books from 1943 - 1961.

I had a few of her books as a child, and the dreamy child-centric life depicted on those pages contributed greatly to the vision of a perfect world that danced in my little head. As for visions of sugar plums, I looked no further than the gingerbread house with windows of spun sugar in Wilkin's illustrated Hansel and Gretel, one of my earliest Little Golden Books.

More Examples of Wilkin's Charming Work

See also: "The Falling Fruit, The Certain Spring"
and "When I Said Autumnal Equinox"
for the related poem "The Burning of the Leaves" by Laurence Binyon

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