Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Number 282: Lucy Maud Montgomery "An Autumn Evening'
An Autumn Evening
Dark hills against a hollow crocus sky
Scarfed with its crimson pennons, and below
The dome of sunset long, hushed valleys lie
Cradling the twilight, where the lone winds blow
And wake among the harps of leafless trees
Fantastic runes and mournful melodies.
The chilly purple air is threaded through
With silver from the rising moon afar,
And from a gulf of clear, unfathomed blue
In the southwest glimmers a great gold star
Above the darkening druid glens of fir
Where beckoning boughs and elfin voices stir.
And so I wander through the shadows still,
And look and listen with a rapt delight,
Pausing again and yet again at will
To drink the elusive beauty of the night,
Until my soul is filled, as some deep cup,
That with divine enchantment is brimmed up.
-- Lucy Maud Montgomery
Hap Notes: Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942) is well known as the author of the Anne of Green Gables books. If you have not read these delightful books or if you'd care to revisit them you can find the full collection here: www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/m#a36. If you love these books you are in good company; Mark Twain adored "Anne."
If you have read her work then it will not be surprising to find that Montgomery had a difficult childhood. She was born in Canada, in Cilfton on Prince Edward Island. Her mother died when she was about a year and a half old and her father, distraught with grief and confusion, and left the young Montgomery to live with her mother's parents. Then, when she was 7 years old she lived with her paternal grandparents. then her dad remarried- the marriage was rocky.
Montgomery was a bright and imaginative little girl. After public school she got through a two year college course of study in one year and qualified to teach. She didn't care much for teaching but it did allow her time to write, which is always what she wanted to do. She was pretty and had a lot of suitors but she really just wanted to write. She went through several engagements with suitors which she eventually broke off. However, she knew, at the time, that a woman in Canada had to have a husband. So she eventually did marry in her thirties, three years after publishing the first "Anne" book in 1908.
Married life did not appeal to the writer much. Her husband, Ewan MacDonald, a Presbyterian minister, was subject to depression as was she. Her only outlet from dreariness was writing and she was prolific, publishing books and short stories and poetry. She was quite famous but this seemed to only vaguely touch her life.
I do not think it would be unfair to say that Montgomery enjoyed her youth on Prince Edward Island where she had wonderful daydreams, made up stories and enjoyed the natural beauty of the place. Throughout her whole life her childhood called to her to come back and enjoy the woods and the stories just waiting to be made up.
In today's poem we see flashes of her whole life; a certain lonely melancholy, the "elfin voices" of imagination and childhood, an awe of the beauty of nature and the fulfillment of her soul through this beauty. She stands alone in this poem- as she did always in her own heart as she wrote.
She received many honors in her lifetime including Fellow of the British Royal Society of Arts in 1923, and a Companion of the Order of the British Empire, and a member of the Literary and Artistic Institute of France, in 1935.
You can find more Montgomery's poems here: rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poet/229.html