Culture,  Nature

The frost is on the pumpkin

The title is adapted from a rather silly and sentimental poem written in the 1880s by James Whitcomb Riley, an American poet who doesn’t seem to rate a page in my Norton Anthology of Poetry, Third Edition (Shorter). Personally, I think his insistent use of affected rural dialect, such as “punkin” instead of pumpkin, could be instructive today.

I was struck by this view in the rural Michigan countryside, early one cold October morning. This was a pumpkin patch, bounded by a few rows of mature corn planted as a screen, just a few rods off of a rural dirt road. At first I thought the corn rows were there to jealously prevent these ripening fruits from provoking thoughts of casual theft by passersby. But a few days later, viewing the same site again, I could see that no such value was placed on the fruit in particular, as crowds of city people had gathered at this back field of a popular seasonal theme farm, and some of their children were thoroughly battering every pumpkin they could reach. Maybe the corn was there to spare the public from the spectacle.

By the time Halloween was over, the battered carcasses had been gathered up and mounded in huge piles of bright orange that adorned the horizon. I don’t know what became of them. Soon after, the corn was harvested, or more specifically, mowed; idled vines and stubble alike plowed under, and the ground smoothed over, as if this crop had never existed. In a way, perhaps it never had.

The utter transformation reminded me of a more worthy excerpt —

           Our revels now are ended: These our actors—,

           As I foretold you—, were all spirits and

           Are melted into air, into thin air;

           And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

           The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,

           The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

           Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve

           And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

           Leave not a rack behind: we are such stuff

           As dreams are made on, and our little life

           Is rounded with a sleep.

 — Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1

Comments are turned off. To contact the author see the About page.