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November 25, 2013

Fall Leaves: In Tribute to Paul Kirk

Professor Emeritus Paul Kirk, who died Nov. 16, was not only a respected botanist, but also an accomplished poet. An Elizabethan-style sonnet he wrote decades ago about autumnal coloration, "The Valley," is reprinted here, accompanied by some recent photos of ODU's fall foliage.

In an Oct. 8, 1982, story about the science of fall coloration, published in ODU's faculty/staff newspaper, The Courier, Kirk offered the following comment on the local display of colors:

"Autumnal coloration is just as intense and just as beautiful in Tidewater as anywhere else in Virginia. The main problem for the viewer is that, along the coastal plain, he can't see the forest for the trees. In other words, he has no good vantage point on the flatlands to look down or out upon a vista of trees."

The Valley

By Paul W. Kirk Jr.

That mystic rhythm turns the final page.
The broad green curtain parts on her command,
Revealing all who wait upon the stage.
On graceful props the festive dancers stand.
To gentle flutes a few in red chasse;
Then gold, but mounting strings soon enfilade
The hosts of motley splendor into play.
They swirl into a frenzy, then they fade.

A grande jeté they melt into the set,
Till one remains,, alone, in sequined gown.
She does her single, final pirouette,
And drifts to join the troupe in somber brown.

The props now draped with white, the costumes crushed,
That ancient stage where Autumn played is hushed.