Strange how when I hear this rather cliched phrase I know it means something is ending, about to finish, albeit magnificently. It is sometimes used of stunningly beautiful skies just before the sun sets and darkness reigns, or of someone’s brave achievement at the end of their career or even life itself. For me the phrase holds the tension of beauty and loss.
And when I look though my window today, there it is again, that pull of opposites. The tension of the glorious colour as the trees let go, allowing their leaves to die and fall. If there were no letting go, there would be no magnificent fiery glory. Flames sometimes burn most brightly just before they are extinguished.
I discovered it was the poet John Dryden who seems to have first used the phrase, blaze of glory, in written English, (although the phenomenon must have been observed for millennia before that!) No ‘Ode to Autumn’ from him though. In his 1686 poem The Hind and the Panther, he refers to the throne of God as a “blaze of glory that forbids the sight.”
Perhaps Dryden’s use of the phrase has theological concepts which are not quite so easily accessible to 21st century thinking. But it does suggest an ambivalence, just as my feelings are mixed as I contemplate the magnificent beauty of the season. Watching the golden glory of falling leaves, I know that they hold the inevitable promise of winter, and feel the shiver of endings.
However, today I will marvel at the kaleidoscopic display, and have a bit of childish fun kicking through the fallen leaves.