The Oven Bird
by Robert Frost
There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.
Many of us have read the poem by Frost, and thought of the seasons, and from there the seasons of life. As John Hollander points out in a talk he gave about the poem:
"This poem—this bird—talks neither of beginnings nor of endings, but a time that is both, in a Janus-like July, looking backward and forward at once, from an original, and to a final, fall. Midpoints are strange. They tend not to generate the ceremonies that beginnings and endings do. Midsummer in England tends to mean the solstice, June 21st or thereabouts. But this is not what the bird celebrates. We tend to think of our northeastern, American midsummer as somewhere around July 30th or so, and this is the Oven Bird’s time: the somewhat indiscernible middle rather than a clearly marked center."
There's one point in the talk which is completely dated, where he speaks about young women ending their sentences in a question, which we can just skip over. (I can just imagine any young women listening to this at the time, quietly furious). You can read the lecture here, if you're interested in thinking a bit more about the poem.
But isn't it true that midpoints are strange, that the time between seasons is interesting to think about. There's a certainty that the next season will come, but also an odd feeling of being between the acts, anything might happen next.
September light feels more mysterious.
Taking photos, I have to readjust my settings, readjust the times I feel are optimal to take photographs in my wide but narrow backyard.
The morning light is later, of course. Works its magic when I'm making breakfast. Easier to miss.
Lastly, a long session with my 'recurring bird' which I thought I'd share. Morning light, but another viewpoint, as you can see.
I've been completely neglecting Flickr, but will add a few of these to my 'recurring bird set' later today.
All of them taken within 10 minutes, the light changing as I took them.