On how I know I’m an old Romantic
They stood, naked, like upturned grape stalks with the fruit all picked. Autumn had stripped them of their colour, their life, and Winter now exposed their bare frames to the frost. They looked old. The pale glare from the low-hung sun cast ghastly shadows over their bodies. Once proud, glorious, now they seemed to cower in shame. They were not made to be on show like this. Even in death, they had seemed somehow magnificent. But cruel Winter had stolen their majesty when she stole their crowning jewels. Their leaves were gone, and with them it seemed their very pride had left them too.
This is something I wrote recently after having walked home from university through Beaumont Park.
I often find I compare myself to the old Romantics like Keats, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Goethe … They loved Nature. All the Romantics did. They found a particular connection with it that struck a chord with them and that same chord is striking with me. It isn’t often I think about it, but rather when I’m having a moment of contemplation, thinking about life and what I’m doing with it. These moments usually come to me when I’m away from my computer, away from the cars and bustle of the main city. The perfect setting for these musings is Beaumont Park.
In an earlier post which I really don’t have the patience to find I wrote the following contradictory thoughts that still ring true:
1. The park looks so beautiful like this.
2. The trees are dying.
This was at the end of Autumn. The leaves were just starting to fall away, and yet, despite knowing that they were dying – at least in relation to the cycle of the seasons – they looked somehow graceful. Even in death they held a certain majesty. Like courageous warriors on the field of battle, clinging to their swords and smiling bravely as their eyes faded. Cruel Winter was stealing their dignity but as they fell apart they still held their heads up high. They were proud, grand, even though they had seen better days.
Today, I noticed something different. Something that made me uncomfortable without quite knowing why. It took looking closer at them as I walked to fully realise what it was that was so unsettling.
The trees seemed ashamed.
There was a sense of them straining to hold themselves upright. Like an act. A charade to play the part of the once glorious trees they were. It made me pity them. It was an awkward feeling. They had been stripped bare by Winter and stood naked, exposed for all to see. And their attempt to resemble their former selves in this state made me uncomfortable. It was almost physical. It made me feel ashamed too without understanding exactly why.
They lacked the fullness and glory of Summer’s radiance. She smiled down on them and made them flourish once. Their leaves gleamed, the green of their veins pulsing vibrant and proud. Then they turned umber, fire, russet. Deep and sensual. You could almost feel that they had lost the playfulness and joy of youth but had replaced it with the equally esteemed wisdom and experience. They were bold, beautiful, and they knew it. They were grand. Then Autumn’s influence began to fade and as they shed their leaves and they awaited the bitter sting of Winter, they still remained proud and glorious, yet in a more subtle manner that comes only with the aged and the knowing.
But now … They have lost their grace, their fire, their glory. They have lost their dignity. And as I walked through the park today I felt it. It was thick in the air. They were ashamed of what they had become. Or if they weren’t, they should have been. That is what I felt in my heart. I almost couldn’t look at them for pity. A wise, great King who has lost his power and his mind should not be paraded through his kingdom after he has lost his former glory. His former greatness should be the thing that his subjects remember and he should die knowing his subjects loved him and what he used to be, and knowing that is how they will remember him. He should not be able to die having had his worst traits displayed, exposed to his people. In this same way the trees should not be on display in this show of feigned self-honour.
It is painful to see them trying so hard to cling to their former greatness.
I am yet to see Beaumont park in the light of Spring. I do hope that She can restore the trees to life, restore their pride. Right now, the state of the trees putting on such a charade send cold, slimy waves through me and makes me feel almost dirty, like I’ve witnessed something I shouldn’t have. I am optimistic that Spring’s youth and hope will cast that feeling out. Perhaps She will restore the sense of ease with which the trees used to stand. They are rigid now, sterile, mechanic. But I feel as though Spring will help. In my gut I feel as though She will bring about a sense of relief. For the trees and for me. I will once more be able to look upon them without it seeming like a violation, and they will once more be able to stand tall, firm in the knowledge that they will be beautiful again.