Listening to: “This Side of the Blue” – Joanna Newsom
Seeing as how the Northeast corridor’s been experiencing a fake change of seasons the past few days, a parody of the seasons really, absurdly impassible blizzard replaced just as suddenly by a brief, false spring, the whole world from Brooklyn to Allston, unhealthy, suffering a low-grade fever. That wasn’t a sentence. Whatevs.
Anyway, seeing as how that thing, I turned to my favorite tragedy-and-joy-tinged summer poem. I heard “Fern Hill” recited before I ever read it, and I think that’s got to be the best way to be introduced to a poem.
It was two Augusts ago, the roomie and I were at his dad’s friend’s cabin in the Green Mountains, Central Vermont, all of us around a bonfire in the rural dark, clear sky, million stars, crescent moon, dogs around the edges of the light, candles floating on the pond, whiskey flowing, guitar tinkling. The kind of night I wish every night could be. And then the owner of said cabin stood up and recited “Fern Hill” from memory–no not recited, performed it, lit by the fire, his hands obscuring and revealing the moon as he gestured. His voice echoed down the hillside.
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.
And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.