Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ramble On

"Leaves are falling all around, It's time I was on my way. 
Thanks to you, I'm much obliged for such a pleasant stay. 
But now it's time for me to go. The autumn moon lights my way. 
For now I smell the rain, and with it pain, and it's headed my way. 
Sometimes I grow so tired, but I know I've got one thing I got to do..."
-- "Ramble On", by Led Zeppelin

There is no time of year I love half so much as autumn. There is something uneasily perfect about the season. Stepping outside from the comfort of one's den, the crispness that tightens the lungs is ubiquitous, forcing one to bundle one's coat around a little tighter, cherishing every caress of warmth that can be trapped, even temporarily, within the confines of a woolen coat. 

Walking down the sidewalk and watching the steam of your breath drift off into the East, you cannot help but notice a precious fragility all around you -- it is not surprising that the majority of images having to do with Autumn are inherently lonely, absent of any human beings, except the occasional lonely rider on an abandoned street. Those carved pumpkins that will give children a giggle or a fright not so long ago will soon rot; the harvest will end; fires around which friends gathered will burn to ash, broken and cold. As the Starks of Winterfell say so often, winter is coming. Those snows waiting to descend from the North like so many frigid locusts can shake the gentle leaves from their sleeping place and bring them to a permanent, decomposing rest on the ground, just to be trampled underfoot and forgotten.

Within this delicate season, we see a part of ourselves, specifically that part that frightens us the most. Of everything that humans beings can imagine, what we cannot imagine is nothingness, to not be

After the Autumn of our lives comes the Winter, and it what comes at the end of our Winter than frightens us. I contend that there is much we can learn from this noble and fragile season. Winter is coming, a fact that nature knows as well as we, but it is not contend with dwindling or going out with a whimper. The colors are vivid, the scents, intoxicating, the sensations, consuming. 

Let us not drift into the sky, exhaled smoke from a forgettable life, but rather let us accept our fragility and make ourselves the better for it; live life vividly, become drunk on the ambrosia of being alive, allow yourself to be consumed with the pleasure that is existing.

This fragility requires that we savor every moment of Autumn as we would a pipe, sipping in the air, rolling it around in our very being, and exhaling it with a smile. 

Neill Archer Roan, an incredible writer and remarkably knowledgeable man, recently wrote his musings about Autumn on his blog, A Passion for Pipes, entitled Agincourt. I have ever been a fan of Henry V, one of Shakespeare's greatest works. While writing this piece, I have been unable to get two speeches from the work out of my head. First, the famous Crispin's Day speech, which can be found on Neill's blog. The second is only slightly less well-known, but seems very applicable to me for the subject matter that I have been discussing. Let me know if you agree, and, if not, what speech from any play or film best captures the mood of Autumn.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'


  1. Ethan,
    Your blog and Neill's for that matter extoll the virtues of Autumn and the coming of winter. Though geographically opportune folks to the north may take umbrage. The films of Bergman, the work of Pasternak, and the poetry of Frost all portray a different, more visceral image of winter. A time of introspection, of taking stock of one's life, a hiberation of hope to directly confront worth and meaning. There is nothing wrong with either perspective, just thought I would give you my thoughts.

    "A light he was to no one but himself..."
    An Old Man's Winter Night Robert Frost

    As to your Billy was on such sentiment that the British Empire trodded upon a thousand nations. It is a fantastic use of the lanquage, but it became a historical football of dubious influence. Joe

    (I cannot figure out the "choose a profile" technol0gical gordian knot.) so anonymous i am.

  2. Oh, winter is a wonderful season, there can be no doubt. My biggest problem with it is that it takes Autumn away from me, a crime for which I have difficulty forgiving it. :-)