What is the central idea and message of "Lake Morning in Autumn" by Douglas Livingston?
It would be hard for a student of poetry to not find a similarity of mood and message between "Lake Morning in Autumn" and Robert Frost's beloved poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." Although Livingston's poem is overtly a nature poem about a stork, he didn't name the poem for the stork. His title, "Lake Morning in Autumn," draws a parallel, by contrast, with Frost's poem. Frost's poem happens in the evening; this poem occurs at sunrise. Frost's poem takes place in a woods overlooking a frozen lake; this poem takes place on a lake. Frost's poem is set in winter, with "easy wind and downy flake" in the air; this poem is set in autumn, with "pencil-slanted rain."
Despite these contrasts, the isolation, exhaustion, and determination of the protagonists--man and stork--unite the two works. The stork is on a lonesome journey, separated from his fellows, and stops to rest, "ponderously alone and some weeks early." He is utterly exhausted, so much so that he doesn't care about his own appearance, "too tired to arrange his wind-buffeted plumage." Despite his loneliness, despite his tiredness, he sighs and mounts slowly to the sky to resume his journey toward his distant destination, just as the man in Frost's poem continues on with "miles to go before I sleep."
As in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," the overriding message one gets from this poem is of the internal motivation that drives one onward, despite one's personal discomfort. People, like birds, have the ability to press on toward a goal that is greater than their momentary desires. Whether that goal involves "promises to keep" or represents some other internal compunction, it allows people to push through loneliness and fatigue to achieve success. In this poem, the subtle message transcends the surface meaning. It calls us to heed the inner drive that compels us toward our ultimate destination, even when we are alone and exhausted.
I would like to be a bit more specific in regards to the central idea than the above answer. The central idea of "Lake Morning in Autumn" by Livingston is the magnificence of the stork in mid-migration.
I find it interesting that the title of the poem doesn't necessarily reflect its main idea. The speaker of the poem observes the stork in the fall of the year, definitely in the middle of the stork's migration. We know this because of how "so very tired" the stork is. Let's look as some specifics that show the magnificence of the stork in autumn. The stork is described as follows:
Ruminative / Beak on chest, contemplative eye / filmy with star vistas and hollow / black migratory league, strangely, / ponderously alone and some weeks /early.
The magnificence of the stork is revealed here by use of some personification: giving the stork human qualities. The stork is able to think, to ruminate. The stork is able to be contemplative. It is also magnificently resilient in that it is not dependent on a flock, but majestically alone in the fall arriving at this mid-destination earlier than the others.
It is the beauty of the "blood and gold" dawn that stirs the stork to continue his migration. He beats his wings and ascends in to the sky as the speaker watches his feet trail for "a long, long time."
The central idea and message to Douglas Livingston's poem "Lake Morning in Autumn" is a sense of wonder at the beauty and resilience of nature.
On the surface, the poem is not difficult to understand. It is about a stork that has landed in order to take a bit of a break from its long migration. It is the first of its kind to arrive and so stands out as a lone solitary figure.
That image of the solitary, beautiful stork stands out because the backdrop against which it stands is not an equally pretty day. It's gray, rainy, and windy, "a flickering gust of pencil slanted rain." The rain and wind are cold and are slicing through layers of warmth. The stork, however, stands firm against it simply contemplating its progress. It seems immune to what nature is throwing at it; therefore, when dawn breaks, the stork resumes its journey. Those stanzas on the beauty and strength of the stork almost lend it a regal status -- beautiful, powerful, and in control.