Donald Hall is quite possibly the premier American elegist. His memories of the people gone before him are continually revivified by his life in the house those people built. When he and Kenyon returned to live there, their life together became part of the fabric of that place. And when Kenyon died at the age of forty-seven from leukemia, the place and Hall's keen knowledge of elegy combined to make powerful tributes that will almost certainly continue to be read and quoted. In a poem addressed to his dead wife that reflects on her garden and the view from the place they both loved, Hall writes,
I paced beside the weeds
and snowy peonies, staring at Mount Kearsarge
where you climbed wearing purple hiking boots.
"Hurry back. Be careful, climbing down."
Your peonies lean their vast heads westward
as if they might topple. Some topple.
In the specifics of Hall's place and his losses, we find emotions we all share.
[Originally published in December, 2009.]
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