Did you know that ‘September’ is derived from the Latin word septem, meaning seven? Originally, September was the seventh month of the ancient Roman calendar, which began in March and spanned only ten months.
‘Seventh month’ isn’t exactly a poetic name – and yet, this month awakens the muse! This is how Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables, described September:
Lo! a ripe sheaf of many golden days
Gleaned by the year in autumn’s harvest ways,
With here and there, blood-tinted as an ember,
Some crimson poppy of a late delight
Atoning in its splendor for the flight
Of summer blooms and joys
This is September.
Beautiful, don’t you think? But we can also find calm and inspiration beyond those summer blooms, if we are willing be open and seeking.
‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802’, is a sonnet by William Wordsworth inspired by a moment of reflection and connection he experienced during a visit to London.
Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!
I love this poem, for its simplicity and for the great beauty of the language – ‘bright and glittering’, ‘touching in its majesty’, ‘glideth at his own sweet will’. Most of all, though, I love the meaning of the sonnet: that we can find inner peace anyplace, if we only open our eyes and heart.
If Wordsworth could stand on a London bridge on this day more than 200 years ago and see beauty in the sprawling city laid out before him – see not the poverty and the grime, but in fact a scene as lovely as a natural landscape – then surely we are all capable of doing so, anytime.
‘The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.’ This is the wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk who has spent decades teaching the concept of mindfulness (in fact, he is often called ‘the father of mindfulness’). ‘Life is available only in the present moment,’ he says.
On Westminster Bridge, Wordsworth was in the present moment and he appreciated its beauty, and that brought him happiness – which inspired a poem that has in turn inspired generations who have read it. This ‘seventh month’ may be unpoetic in name (thank you, Romans), but ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’ shows us that if we are mindful, this time can be really, truly beautiful.