Tell me not here, it needs not saying,
What tune the enchantress plays
In aftermaths of soft September
Or under blanching mays,
For she and I were long acquainted
And I knew all her ways.
On russet floors, by waters idle,
The pine lets fall its cone;
The cuckoo shouts all day at nothing
In leafy dells alone;
And traveler’s joy beguiles in autumn
Hearts that have lost their own.
On acres of the seeded grasses
The changing burnish heaves;
Or marshalled under moons of harvest
Stand still all night the sheaves;
Or beeches strip in storms for winter
And stain the wind with leaves.
Possess, as I possessed a season,
The countries I resign,
Where over elmy plains the highway
Would mount the hills and shine,
And full of shade the pillared forest
Would murmur and be mine.
For nature, heartless, witless nature,
Will neither care nor know
What stranger’s feet may find the meadow
And trespass there and go,
Nor ask amid the dews of morning
If they are mine or no.”
Soon after the death of my guide dog, Drew I was walking in The Lawns, a park near to my home in Upper Norwood. The sun shonne, the birds sang and all seemed right with the world other than the feeling of loss which gnawed away in my heart. Unbidden the words “heartless, witless nature” came into my head. At the time they where so apt as nature continued on, in her own sweet way heedless of my loss. Certain poems speak to the heart and the above is one of them. At the time of my loss, as I strolled through the park I had no recollection of where those words eminated from, however the poem had (and continues to maintain) an entrenched place in my being so even though I could not remember the origin of the phrase “heartless, witless nature” it had, non the less lodged itself in my subconscious and popped into my thoughts at the appropriate moment.
It was only today that, on leafing through a collection of Houseman’s poetry that I came across the above poem and was reminded of the origin of “heartless, witless nature”.
IN “In Memory of W. B. Yeats” Auden remarks that “poetry makes nothing happen”, that may well be true, however poetry does touch the heart and can soothe a troubled soul as was the case when those words came, unbidden into my mind while I walked through The Lawns.