Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dull November?

Dull November brings the blast;
Then the leaves are whirling fast.

That couplet kept going through my mind earlier today as I worked outside. It is midafternoon of the second Sunday in November and it is 68 out as I type these lines.

Warren has been working outside all weekend, rebuilding a trailer in which to haul his timpani. The balmy weather has made for great opportunity to paint pieces outside in the fresh air and not in the garage. As for me, I spent a couple of hours this morning spading up the kitchen garden, turning under the top layer. Next spring I'll dump a load of compost on it and till it all again before planting.

The above lines are from the poem Months by Sara Coleridge, an English poet who lived in the early nineteenth century and who is now largely forgotten. Largely forgotten except for this poem, which crops up in many anthologies of children's poems. Sara, who is often relegated to poetry rosters (when she appears at all) as a "minor" poet, was the daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who penned The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan. Samuel, a founder of the Romantic movement in England, is still very much a "major" poet, even in our increasingly poetry-starved high school curricula.

I have read Rime more than once, avoid albatrosses at all costs, and in high school memorized portions of Kubla Khan. Yet I knew Sara's work long before I knew she had a more famous father. That pleases me. I like that, despite her small and faded fame, Sara's verses about the months continue to be read to and sometimes chanted by small children.

Dull November will come soon enough. For today, though, I am celebrating the warmth, the sun, and the poet's daughter who gave us the calendar in couplets.

Months by Sara Coleridge

January brings the snow,
Makes our feet and fingers glow

February brings the rain,
Thaws the frozen lake again

March brings breezes, loud and shrill,
To stir the dancing daffodil

April brings the primrose sweet,
Scatters daisies at our feet

May brings flocks of pretty lambs
Skipping by their fleecy dams.

June brings tulips, lilies, roses,
Fills the children's hands with posies.

Hot July brings cooling showers,
Apricots, and Gillyflowers.

August brings the sheaves of corn;
Then the harvest home is borne.

Warm September brings the fruit;
Sportsmen then begin to shoot.

Fresh October brings the pheasant;
Then to gather nuts is pleasant.

Dull November brings the blast;
Then the leaves are whirling fast.

Chill December brings the sleet,
Blazing fire, and Christmas treat.

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