A few days ago I took a photograph of a Birch Tree in Glen Uig here in Skye. When I shared this image online I entitled it ‘Fading Autumn’ (the image on this post). For some reason these word popped into my head again at breakfast this morning – followed by the words of famed poet Lord Byron (1788–1824) on the day of his thirty-sixth birthday –
‘My days are in the yellow leaf;
The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
The worm, the canker, and the grief
Are mine alone!’
Many of us, including me, say that autumn is their favourite time of year. The beauty of the trees and grasses as they turn to various shades of yellow, orange, red, purple, and brown are wonderful to behold. Yet they are, in truth, a portend of coming death – the cold and debilitating grasp of winter.
For Byron his autumn was determined by his summer – a summer if sexual riot, abandonment and over indulgence in every way imaginable. Nor was he, it appears, a very nice man – to say the least! Yet, in his day, he had what we would now term, ‘celebrity status’. No mansion was complete without a set of his works in the library.
Of course autumn comes to us all – and some of us are there already! Like Byron our autumn is most often determined by our summer. The advice of the wise man in the book of Psalms seems appropriate here –
‘Teach us to number our days
so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom.’
Psalm 90: 12 (TV)
As I write my mind is drawn again to my grandfathers favourite Psalm. It speaks of a supernatural tree which has a ‘never fading leaf’. My grandfather was a simple crofter (farmer) who knew nothing of fame or fortune. Yet I want what was true for him to be true for me in the autumn of my life as, in my minds eye I see him singing it with passion –
‘That man hath perfect blessedness,
who walketh not astray
In counsel of ungodly men,
nor stands in sinners’ way,
Nor sitteth in the scorner’s chair:
But placeth his delight
Upon God’s law, and meditates
on his law day and night.
He shall be like a tree that grows
near planted by a river,
Which in his season yields his fruit,
and his leaf fadeth never:
And all he doth shall prosper well
The wicked are not so;
But like they are unto the chaff,
which wind drives to and fro.
In judgment therefore shall not stand
such as ungodly are;
Nor in th’ assembly of the just
shall wicked men appear.
For why? the way of godly men
unto the Lord is known:
Whereas the way of wicked men
shall quite be overthrown.’
Psalm 1 (Scottish Metrical Version)