05 October 2010

Autumnal Upanisad & Shelley's West Wind

Autumn.  The ever-shortening days, the falling leaves swirled up and dropped by ghostly gusts, bleak skies framed by black branches, that chill -- winter's harbinger, settling in, seeping under the door.  No wonder those melancholy poets, in their eternal contemplations of mortality, can't resist it.  Go ahead, look 'em up and you'll likely find every poet you have ever liked has written a poem about autumn!

One of my favorites is Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind". Instead of being a simple contemplation of mortality, the poem becomes a celebration of change.  Shelley's west wind energizes the landscape; it's a transformational force, shaping and reshaping the planet, the mind, the soul.  The speaker addresses the wind as
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere,
Destroyer and Preserver
Many poets see this turning season as a summons to death lurking on the other end of November in winter's deep freeze, but Shelley's autumn isn't that at all; it's a reminder that immortality exists in the eternal cycle of destruction and renewal, that what destroys, preserves as well.  Or, to frame it in terms of the Isa Upanisad
Whoever knows becoming and destruction--
     Both of them, together --
By destruction crosses over death
     And by becoming reaches immortality.