A VAGABOND SONG
THERE is something in the autumn that is native to my blood—
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.
The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.
There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls each vagabond by name. ~Bliss Carman
Normally I’m not much of a fan of rhyming poetry. In fact, most of the time I find it highly irritating and will go to great lengths to avoid. There are exceptions. I’m a huge fan of Tennyson, and also of Dr. Seuss. And there are a few poems from my childhood that have a special place in my heart as well. I was made to memorize A Vagabond Song somewhere back in elementary school, and for some reason it is still with me all these years later. And, if I’m honest, it moves me. Every fall, when the nights get frosty and the leaves turn to scarlet and gold, this poem starts to run through my brain. Carman managed to catch the restlessness I feel in the fall, the itchy feet, the feeling that my heart has grown a size or two and no longer quite fits in my chest.
If there are fallen leaves on the sidewalk or lying thick beneath a tree, I’m going to swish-crunch through them. Unless, of course, some industrious soul has spent the day raking said leaves into one of those inviting, multicolored piles just begging for somebody to…
Ahem. I am an adult now. I will walk by with nothing more than a wistful look. If I happen to catch the very edge of the leaf pile with my toe and send just a few leaves scattering delightfully, it is pure accidental clumsiness on my part.
Bliss Carman caught one of my autumn moods. The other one, quite different, runs more like this:
Spring and Fall: to a Young Child
Margaret, are you grieving
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for. ~Gerard Manley Hopkins