In 1905 Theodore “T.R.” Roosevelt, Jr. began his second term as the 26th President of the United States. The Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan were raging a bloody war over territory. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of wars in the 20th Century.
Albert Einstein earned his doctorate as well as submitting four major papers. The Bolsheviks were gaining ground in Russia.
In Guthrie, Kentucky, Robert and Anna Ruth Penn Warren welcomed their first child and son Robert Penn Warren. As they held their baby boy, little did they realize they held a Rhodes Scholar, a Pulitzer Prize winner in poetry (Promises: Poem 1954-1956; Now and Then 1979) and literature (All The King’s Men 1947), and the first Poet Laureate of the United States (1986-87).
Robert at sixteen lost his left eye to a rock mishap. Because of the eye, he lost his appointment to Annapolis.
However, this disappointment in not being able to serve his country led him to Vanderbilt University where his talent and destiny would coalesce under the careful guidance of his professors. After graduation with high honors he went to University of California; then Yale and to New College at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar.
Robert would have a long teaching and writing career with many prestigious awards and accolades. He would see his Pulitzer Prize novel All The King’s Men turned into a motion picture which won the 1949 Best Picture Oscar.
Of course his life had its ups and downs. Like many poets he would live out his remaining years in New England where American history and poetry had flourished for centuries.
Like so many others cancer would claim him as another trophy on its wall of fame. A few years before his death Robert wrote a poem Heart of Autumn.
Like all poetry the reader or the literary analyst will read or see things which the poet never intended. Poetry is very personal, and what it means to the poet may run counter to those who want to give their own spin on words which belong to another.
The soul of the poet resides in his or her poetry. To the poet their words are like dewdrops rising from the depths of their spirit to find their way on paper.
Life on this planet traversing the cosmos is very much like the four seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. The end of Autumn always reminds one of the sunset of life.
Regardless of whom you are or what vast resources may be at your discretion, when winter comes, life ends. The question is how you lived the Summer and Autumn years of your existence.
May you have known why you were here. May your story not be forgotten.
G. D. Williams © 2013
Heart of Autumn
Wind finds the northwest gap, fall comes.
Today, under gray cloud-scud and over gray
Wind-flicker of forest, in perfect formation, wild geese
Head for a land of warm water, the boom, the lead pellet.
Some crumple in air, fall. Some stagger, recover control,
Then take the last glide for a far glint of water. None
Knows what has happened. Now, today, watching
How tirelessly V upon V arrows the season’s logic,
Do I know my own story? At least, they know
When the hour comes for the great wing-beat. Sky-strider,
Star-strider–they rise, and the imperial utterance,
Which cries out for distance, quivers in the wheeling sky.
That much they know, and in their nature know
The path of pathlessness, with all the joy
Of destiny fulfilling its own name.
I have know time and distance, but not why I am here.
Path of logic, path of folly, all
The same–and I stand, my face lifted now skyward,
Hearing the high beat, my arms outstretched in the tingling
Process of transformation, and soon tough legs,
With folded feet, trail in the sounding vacuum of passage,
And my heart is impacted with a fierce impulse
To unwordable utterance–
Toward sunset, at a great height.
Robert Penn Warren (April 24, 1905-September 15, 1989)