Ever since I read The Immense Journey almost 20 years ago, phrases from it have haunted me - not just because of the author's facility with words, but for the evocative nature of his observations, his ability to sum up in a single sentence the content of a whole chapter. For instance, in showing how plants made further evolution possible he writes: "The weight of a petal has changed the face of the world and made it ours." And in the same book his encounter with the sparrow hawk is the most moving account of an I-Thou relationship I have come on.
Through the intervening years, Eiseley's focus remained constant - the immensities of time and space, and man's glorious and fragile role in the great pageant. He sees man always with double vision, as a part of nature, and the one part that knows it is a part of nature.
The same vision holds steady in Another Kind of Autumn. He reflects on an Egyptian pyramid, where "The king sleeps well while dynasties dissolve," but he does not forget the sparrow hawk who follows "a time that is measured in leagues, and is his time only, the time before man."
This is not a book for the young; they must live longer to learn that ripeness is all. Another Kind of Autumn is for those in the fall of their own lives, loving the shared earth, but not railing against the fading of the light.
A reader familiar with Eiseley's prose will expect to find he has taken already poetic prose and simply divided it into cadenced lines. Sometimes, indeed, this seems the case. Mkre often (as in "London: A Memory') he achieves the characteristic concision of verse, and shows a command of poeitc artifice. Quiet wit lurks in many of the poems, though the general tone is more elegiac and nostalgic.
Many poets make passing reference to cosmology and the immense epic of evolution, but Eisley makes poetry of it. Through his consciousness, man laments, celebrates, and accepts his collective and individual destiny. (Scribner's, $8.95)