Banking on the Fog to Clear

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Banking on the Fog to Clear

Among poems singing the praises of autumn, the work of the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke has universal appeal. Rilke''s "Autumn Day" evokes the season and all its splendor.

"Lord, it is time. Let the great summer go,

Lay your long shadows on the sundials,

And over harvest piles let the wind blow.

Command the last fruits to be ripe;

Grant them some other southern hour,

Urge them to completion, and with power

Drive final sweetness to the heavy grape."

In Korea, the fresh scents of the early autumn, from mid-September to early October conjure memories and arouse emotions. Autumn in Germany, however, is very short and sunshine is rare during the season. Germans tend to feel some anxiety about the coming winter, a long cold and wet winter that makes them cling to the last rays of autumn. Rilke capture that sense of longing in "Autumn Day" when he wrote:

"Who''s homeless now, will for long stay alone.

No home will build his weary hands,

He''ll wake, read, write letters long to friends,

and will the alleys up and down."

As winter nears, these feelings become more intense. In November, gray days follow gray days, with sunshine peaking through only occasionally. In Germany, the season is shrouded in a somber fog. Therefore, Germans call November the month of fog. Hermann Hesse expressed the loneliness and melancholy in his poem "In the Fog."

"It''s strange to wander in the fog,

A lonely bush, a lonely stone,

No tree can see another one,

And one is all alone.

The world was full of friends back then,

As life was light to me

But now the fog has veiled the pole

And no one can I see."

Hesse, a German writer known best for his novels, started his career as a writer after his literary gifts were recognized by Rilke. Hesse''s poem is filled with the authentic scent of Germany. It reminds one of an old black and white photo, picturing an old man who, after sending away his loved ones, walks down a foggy forest path covered with leaves in November.

Fog in the late autumn is almost mystical in its ability to stir the imagination, but few welcome it as they would the sun. Yet it has purpose in our imaginations. The way it figures into language - as it does in the Chinese expression, "Politicians groping in the fog." The U.S. presidential election, which is foundering in what might be described as a thick fog, gives one more than a enough reason to hope for an early spring.
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