A Hymn to the Passing of Summer

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 5:06 am

A Hymn to the Passing of Summer

Here’s a poem that seems more beautiful to me every time I read it.
It’s a lyrical hymn to the passing of summer, to people known and unknown to us who have passed this way — and to the mystical connection we have with all of them because we can feel what they felt in “this hour along the valley” and in “this light at the end of summer.”
It’s a poem to be read aloud, and slowly, a poem to be felt even more than understood, as one might feel a song…

by W.S. Merwin

This hour along the valley this light at the end
of summer lengthening as it begins to go
this whisper in the tawny grass this feather floating
in the air this house of half a life or so
this blue door open to the lingering sun this stillness
echoing from the rooms like an unfinished sound
this fraying of voices at the edge of the village
beyond the dusty gardens this breath of knowing
without knowing anything this old branch from which
years and faces go on falling this presence already
far away this restless alien in the cherished place
this motion with no measure this moment peopled
with absences with everything that I remember here
eyes the wheeze of the gate greetings birdsongs in winter
the heart dividing dividing and everything
that has slipped my mind as I consider the shadow
all this has occurred to somebody else who has gone
as I am told and indeed it has happened again
and again and I go on trying to understand
how that could ever be and all I know of them
is what they felt in the light here in this late summer

(W.S. Merwin received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in both 1971 and 2009 and served as U.S. Poet Laureate in 2010-2011.)

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is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. His book On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old will be published in June.

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