Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Autumn Grace #14: Lovely as a Tree and "Ombra Mai Fu" Aria

Dear friends,

I love trees. I don't hug them, but I do stand long and gaze. I am jealous of my daughter Julia who has been in Boone, North Carolina this past weekend feasting her eyes on the amazing autumn foliage. At least she shared these two pictures with us. 

This post is full of trees!  You may not be a student, but you're about to get poetry, opera, music, Italian, and nature photography lessons all rolled in one. Enjoy!

by Joyce Kilmer, 1914

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.


I love that poem! Most of us are only familiar with the first two lines, but isn't it fun to find out there is more?  The lines are written as couplets, with rhyming pairs. The rhythm is iambic tetrameter because there are four pairs (tetrameter) of unstressed-stressed syllables (iambic). There's your poetry lesson for the day.

I can relate to the character of Xerxes in Handel's opera Serses, who sang an ode to a plane tree. On Christmas Eve 1906, the aria "Ombra Mai Fu" became the first music to be broadcast on radio. I have included the lyrics and English translation below. This is one of the pieces that my daughter and I enjoyed at the "Nature in Music" symphony concert last week. If the videos don't load automatically, you can find them here: Jackie Evancho and Andreas Scholl.

“Ombra Mai Fu”

Frondi tenere e belle
del mio platano amato
per voi risplenda il fato.
Tuoni, lampi, e procelle
non v'oltraggino mai la cara pace,
né giunga a profanarvi austro rapace.

Ombra mai fu
di vegetabile,
cara ed amabile,
soave più.

Tender and beautiful fronds
of my beloved plane tree,
let Fate smile upon you.
May thunder, lightning, and storms
never disturb your dear peace
nor may you by blowing winds 
  be profaned.

Never was a shade
of any plant
dearer and more lovely
or more sweet. 

[Other symphony posts:  Vivaldi's "Spring" and Holst's "Jupiter" and Beethoven's 6th Symphony, 4th Movement]

Let us take time to enjoy trees in every season of the year.  Be sure to notice the uniqueness of each - the trunk, roots, branches, bark, leaves, flowers, seed pods, size, shape, colors, age, and silhouette against the sky. See the difference from season to season. Admire their majesty, and then think of the Grand Creator who made them all.

Here are some of my tree photos from my blogs:

Morning walk in the neighbhorhood

Kewanee Park in the fog

Tabebuia tree in April

Tabebuia blooms

Golden rain tree in February
Seed pods on the same tree

Golden rain tree in October

Palm tree with seeds
Altamonte Springs, Florida

Lake Johnson in Raleigh, North Carolina

Lake Killarney

Little Econlockhatchee River
Blanchard Park

Crane's Roost in Altamonte Springs, Florida

Lake Baldwin

Huge banyan tree in Cypress Gardens

Closer shot of the banyan tree

Floss silk tree at Leu Gardens

Closer view of floss silk tree
Trees in a flooded field
"The Senator" in Big Tree Park
(unfortunately burned down a few years ago)

"The Senator" again

Muir Woods in northern California
(taken by my mother or my daughter Naomi)
I haven't been there since I was about 13,
but these were the trees of my California childhood!
No wonder I love trees!
Grace and peace
... and trees!
Virginia Knowles

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you... I love trees also! In fact, we have had to stop planting any more on our property... it has all the trees it can handle! We have 2 trees in pots... waiting for if we can move to the country... and plant more trees. :) You have a great collection of pictures of different trees. :)