In a season when suddenly so many beloved people have become ill, my partner wondered yesterday if we are now of the age when this is to be expected. News of Siberian sinkholes, a likely sign of melting permafrost, overwhelms my optimism, tying the small personal pains of loss to a greater sense of losing ground, unwanted change, and fear.
This poem used to seem very different to me than it does now. I had always read in it that fear of our own death is the root of all feelings of loss. Now it seems more generous, that as our lives lengthen and we experience more suffering, our capacity to withstand it and understand it also grows. Now, too, it no longer seems childish to look at the changing of the seasons and cry.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Spring and Fall: to a Young Child
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
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 heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.