Friday, February 27, 2009

There came a wind like a bugle

There came a wind like a bugle . . .

It's a line from an Emily Dickenson poem, known to me from a song setting by Aaron Copland. Here's the whole poem:

There came a wind like a bugle;
It quivered through the grass,
And a green chill upon the heat
So ominous did pass
We barred the windows and the doors
As from an emerald ghost;
The doom's electric moccasin
That very instant passed.
On a strange mob of panting trees,
And fences fled away,
And rivers where the houses ran
The living looked that day.
The bell within the steeple wild
The flying tidings whirled.
How much can come
And much can go,
And yet abide the world!

In Copland's setting all the words fly by, on the wind, on sixteenth notes in the piano, till the song slows at the final three lines.

It seems like a good poem for today--though there was no heat today--instead a rather chilly day in February. It was an uneasy day, a day when things seem to be turning into something else: a new, really new, budget in Washington, a disintegrating economy, torrential rains yesterday and cold winds today, a Friday night when I'm home alone while two teenagers are off turning into more grown-up people--until they come home again.

I am stiff from sitting in an office chair too much this week, stiff from not sleeping well, stiff from neglect. Stiff and cold, because the windows that surround my desk are old and leaky, and I never remember to turn the space heater on until I'm frozen to the bone.

Dickenson's poem is about change, I think, and anxious, ominous liminal fear. Can I bar the door against the wind? Can I keep it from touching me? I try, but I am stiff and sore and sorrowing from the effort.

It is hard to watch things change, to see dreams forsake the people who dreamed them, to see hope focus on less and less, as life slides into the sweet bitterness of death. It is other people's grief I am writing of here, not my own, grief I see around them, grief that is too private to mention.

Yet I will be someone who "abide(s) the world," for a while anyway, as much comes and goes.

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