The Pumpkin Spice Latte is back on the Starbucks menu, a sure sign that autumn is almost here (it actually begins on Tuesday). To help celebrate the season, I've collected excerpts from some of my favorite autumn poems below. SCROLL DOWN TO ADD YOUR FAVORITES!
John Keats, who is in the news these days thanks to Jane Campion's new movie Bright Star, wrote one his four great odes to the season. The first stanza of "Ode to Autumn" is so rich with images of ripening that it seems on the verge of bursting from its lines:
SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease;
For Summer has o'erbrimm'd their clammy cells.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Keats's fellow romantic wunderkind, used the autumn as a metaphor for inspiration and revolution in "Ode to the West Wind." While Keats's ode moves at a somnolent pace, Shelley's poem is fast-moving and electric.
O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being
Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes! O thou
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill;
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, O hear!
In stark contrast to the rich treatment of autumn by the two Romantics, E. E. Cummings focused on (and imitated) the action of a falling leaf in this clever and artful poem.
It might help you to see the poem "unbroken," in which case it reads: "l(a leaf falls) oneliness." Cummings wrote the sentence so that the action of a leaf falling is actually contained within the word "loneliness." And you can see how skilled he was at using line breaks and spacing to create an effect.
Robert Frost--perhaps America's best nature poet--uses the autumn as a metaphor for beauty's impermanence in the short lyric "Nothing Gold Can Stay."
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold,
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Finally, here's "A Vagabond Song" by the Canadian poet Bliss Carman. In it, Carman highlights the connection he feels to autumn, and how it appeals to the wanderer in him.
There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood--
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.
The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.
There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls each vagabond by name.
You can read more autumn poems here.
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