Poems for fall

So many autumn poems are melancholy. Granted, some autumn days are conducive to melancholy: dull, damp and grey. Dry leaves turn to wet brown muck in the streets and you retreat inside with thoughts of blankets and hot drinks.

Fall is equated, understandably, with old age and fading beauty. It’s linked with decay, death and loss. Gerard Manley Hopkins‘ “Summer and Fall” follows that pattern with lines like these: “Margaret, are you grieving/ Over Goldengrove unleaving?” It seems to liken autumn to the loss of childhood, the loss of a former self, as it ends: “It is the blight man was born for,/ It is Margaret you mourn for.” And W.H. Auden has this pair of lines in “Canzone”: “Drift, Autumn, drift; fall, colours, where you will:/ Bald melancholia minces through the world.”

Gloomy stuff. But then there’s this one, from an old children’s anthology:

I like the fall,

The mist and all…

I like the gray

November day,

And bare, dead boughs

That coldly sway

Against my pane.

I like the rain. (“The Mist and All” by Dixie Willson)

Which reminds me of my son a couple of weeks ago when I was complaining about the persistent rain: “What’s wrong with the weather?”

What I was really after, though, was a poem for clear blue-and-gold days when it’s a pleasure to scuffle through the dry leaves. It’s a bit more difficult to find a poem like that, though, especially one that isn’t too sappy. So far the only one I’ve found that comes close is Bliss Carman’s “A Vagabond Song,” especially the middle stanza: “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.”

I’ll keep looking.

1 comment

  1. no leaves in this poem, but I think it has the sky you’re looking for:

    Hurrahing in Harvest

    Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise
    Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
    Of silk-sack cloud! has wilder, wilful-wavier
    Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?

    I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
    Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;
    And, eyes, heart, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
    Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?

    And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
    Majestic – as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet! –
    These things, these things were here and but the beholder
    Wanting; which two when they once meet,
    The heart rears wings bold and bolder
    And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.

    Gerard Manley Hopkins

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