Yesterday, Mary Oliver released a new collected edition of her work, aptly titled Devotions. I think often of Oliver’s poems–contemporary psalms as surely as they are anything else.
I’ve written here before about Oliver’s poem, “Lines written in days of growing darkness.” And I decided it’s okay to talk about it once again–no one apologizes for sharing on of David’s psalms twice. It’s a poem I love dearly, not just because of its evocative description of my favorite season, but because of the way it addresses the “autumn heart.” Fall isn’t just Keatsian “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” after all, but a reminder of broken-heartedness and impending loss. “Who would cry out” as the world decays, as age gets more and more advanced, as death stops for more and more folks I love? I would. And I do.
But the poem balances the melancholy of the season with a radical hope, rooted in love. And gives us a way forward–not triumphalistically–but “cheerfully enough,” with a wise gladness.
Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
who would cry out
to the petals on the ground
knowing as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married
to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do
if the love one claims to have for the world
So let us go on, cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,
though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.