Read an Excerpt
FROM THE INTRODUCTION
The seasons are both segments of time and states of mind. Though ourword ‘‘season’’ derives from the Latin for ‘‘sowing’’ and refers thereby only to spring, every culture has had terms – whether winter and summer, or rainy and dry – for the sequence of great climatic changes by which the world transforms itself every year. But it’s more than what is going on outside. Our hearts have seasons as well. Mostly, we call them moods, and we lay our plans by their accustomed recurrences. We recall the crucial moments in our lives by the weather that still swirls around them in memory. Weddings and family reunions, getaways and homecomings are most often scheduled by the season. Yes, we have urgent appointments and traditional holidays, our deadlines and habits. But our bodies and their tides of desire seem to move more slowly, and are governed by the larger, more dramatic and decisive movements of the sun itself – the arrival of light and the opulence of warmth, then their slow fading and cold withdrawal. Aren’t, in fact, the seasons like the stages of a love affair?
This is where the poets come in. They are enthusiasts and brooders. Love and death are their stock-in-trade. But first of all, they are observers. A strong imagination begins with a keen eye. The poet is interested in both the detail and the scheme, in both the streak on the tulip and the nature of beauty which the flower represents. This is why the seasons have, down the centuries, had a special appeal for poets. (It’s interesting though obvious to note that modern poets from England and especially from New England, where weather patterns are more extreme, are more likely to write about the seasons than poets from more steadily temperate parts.) This book is a virtual anthology of small details, because the seasons invite us to catalogue the terms of our love for the world. It takes hours of observation to get the tiniest half-line right that describes, say, the precise shade of a bird’s wing in flight. And such details are then the starting-point of metaphor. We can’t see anything exactly as it is unless we first see it as something else.