Poems for Autumn Part 2

A very fine crab apple on Huntingdon Road in East Finchley

Dear Readers, there were some lovely suggestions for poems for autumn in the comments, so I thought I’d collect them here. Plus, it gives me a chance to show off some more leaf photos. If you’ve thought of any more favourites, fire away! There’s still time for a few more before I start thinking about winter.

First up, here’s an old favourite, suggested by Anne. I knew the first few lines (as I suspect does every child who was at school in the 60s and 70s) but that doesn’t stop it being very beautiful. I especially like that line about ‘ Thy hair soft-lifted by a winnowing wind’. Time for another look, I think.

To Autumn – John Keats – 1795-1821

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-eves 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’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Hornbeam leaves (Carpinus betulus)

Sllgatsby had some lovely, lovely poems, including one by Edna St Vincent Millay. This one reminds me of an autumn visit to Canada, when the fall colour was almost too much to bear. Can you be moved to tears by a bunch of maples? Well, I certainly was.

God’s World by Edna St Vincent Millay

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

And how about this one, also suggested by sllgatsby. This is by American poet Sarah Teasdale. It’s the bit about ‘the voices of little insects’ that gets me every time. Of course it does.

September Midnight by Sarah Teasdale

Lyric night of the lingering Indian Summer,
Shadowy fields that are scentless but full of singing,
Never a bird, but the passionless chant of insects,
Ceaseless, insistent.

The grasshopper’s horn, and far-off, high in the maples,
The wheel of a locust leisurely grinding the silence
Under a moon waning and worn, broken,
Tired with summer.

Let me remember you, voices of little insects,
Weeds in the moonlight, fields that are tangled with asters,
Let me remember, soon will the winter be on us,
Snow-hushed and heavy.

Over my soul murmur your mute benediction,
While I gaze, O fields that rest after harvest,
As those who part look long in the eyes they lean to,
Lest they forget them.

Muswell Hill Playing Fields

Sandra Gibson gave a friend a weekly ‘gift’ of a poem for her birthday – what a splendid idea! First up, here’s a poem by Jean Sprackland – I reviewed her books ‘Strands‘ and ‘Those Silent Mansions‘, but wasn’t so familiar with her poetry, something I shall have to remedy.

October by Jean Sprackland

Skies, big skies, careening over in the wind
great shoals of cloud pitching and jostling
in their rush to be anywhere other than here

You hesitate on your doorstep, glance up
and something tugs in your chest, rips free like a leaf
and is sucked up and away. Everything’s

finished here: raw-boned sycamores,
fields scalped and sodden. The houses are shut
and dustbins roll in their own filth in the street

So you would take your chances, risk it all…
You stand for a moment with the keys in your hand
Feeling the hard pull of the sky and the moment passing

I love Maya Angelou’s poetry, but hadn’t come across this one from Sandra’s archive.

Late October by Maya Angelou

Carefully

the leaves of autumn
sprinkle down the tinny
sound of little dyings
and skies sated
of ruddy sunsets
of roseate dawns
roil ceaselessly in
cobweb greys and turn
to black
for comfort.

Only lovers

see the fall
a signal end to endings
a gruffish gesture alerting
those who will not be alarmed
that we begin to stop
in order to begin
again.

And here from Sandra’s treasure trove is a poem by a poet that I hadn’t come across before, Ann Pilling. The last two lines are corkers, for sure.

Weeping Ash by Ann Pilling 2020

It died quietly in the night. If there were death throes
the gale swallowed them; and it fell with care
sideways on to a holly tree which soon bounced back,
we can see the hills now and we have more light.

I will miss all of it, its witchy branches, its long hair,
its stubborn refusal to leaf until spring
had all but passed into summer. Only then
did its long black fingernails unfurl to green.

The logs, stacked up in chequered rows against a wall,
will last several winters. Ash burns well.
In the dark months we can pull up close,
warm our hands at its flame

as those we have loved warm
us when we remember them

And finally, here are two haikus, the first by Gert Loveday of the wonderful Gert Loveday’s Fun With Books website. If you are not familiar with it, and if you love books, hotfoot it over to the site and see what you think. There are in fact two Gerts, and I’m not sure who exactly wrote this one. I love it regardless.

the swish of the broom

sweeping fallen leaves~
the light fades

And finally finally another Haiku chosen by Gert, this one by Saigyo.

even someone

free of passion as myself
feels sorrow:
snipe rising from a marsh
at evening in autumn

Such varied poems, all of them touched with both melancholy and hope. Just right for my current mood, and for the turning year I think. I hope you enjoyed them, and feel free to suggest any more that you like in the comments. The world needs all the poetry that it can get at the moment.

5 thoughts on “Poems for Autumn Part 2

  1. Liz Norbury

    It’s lovely to be introduced to some new autumn poems – and to re-read To Autumn, and remember the muffled giggles which greeted the word “bosom” when our English teacher read the poem to us! The only other autumn poem which comes to my mind is Thomas Hardy’s At Day-Close in November.

    I love your pictures of autumn leaves, and trees against the sky. I can’t stop taking photos on my morning walks in my local wood, as the colours seem to change every time I’m there. West Cornwall isn’t known for autumn colour, as trees are frequently battered by south-westerly gales and their leaves shaken to the ground, but this has been a calm, mild autumn – so far!

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      I have more leaf photos on my camera than I know what to do with this year. I’m wondering if lockdown has made me more acutely attuned to small beauties?

      Reply
      1. sllgatsby

        I know I am definitely more attuned to small beauties as a result of lockdowns. I mean, I have always taken lots of pictures and am a “noticer” of creatures, shadows, shapes, reflections, and patterns. But now I find this has intensified and in the absence of events or a trips, I’ve turned my focus to small, local detail and the ways in which things change day to day.

        I have been grateful for your blog, which was brought to my attention at a time when my focus was naturally turning in the same direction.

        I just read another autumn poem I thought you might enjoy. I get a poem a day in The Writer’s Almanac and it appeared there today.

        Falling Leaves and Early Snow
        by Kenneth Rexroth

        In the years to come they will say,
        “They fell like the leaves
        In the autumn of nineteen thirty-nine.”
        November has come to the forest,
        To the meadows where we picked the cyclamen.
        The year fades with the white frost
        On the brown sedge in the hazy meadows,
        Where the deer tracks were black in the morning.
        Ice forms in the shadows;
        Disheveled maples hang over the water;
        Deep gold sunlight glistens on the shrunken stream.
        Somnolent trout move through pillars of brown and gold.
        The yellow maple leaves eddy above them,
        The glittering leaves of the cottonwood,
        The olive, velvety alder leaves,
        The scarlet dogwood leaves,
        Most poignant of all.

        In the afternoon thin blades of cloud
        Move over the mountains;
        The storm clouds follow them;
        Fine rain falls without wind.
        The forest is filled with wet resonant silence.
        When the rain pauses the clouds
        Cling to the cliffs and the waterfalls.
        In the evening the wind changes;
        Snow falls in the sunset.
        We stand in the snowy twilight
        And watch the moon rise in a breach of cloud.
        Between the black pines lie narrow bands of moonlight,
        Glimmering with floating snow.
        An owl cries in the sifting darkness.
        The moon has a sheen like a glacier.

        ~ From “Falling Leaves and Early Snow” from The Collected Shorter Poems, copyright ©1940

  2. Sarah

    Thank you, it was lovely to read those poems, all but one unknown to me. I love ‘To Autumn’, impressive to think it was written by someone so young, it has such a mature appreciation of the joys of autumn. Speaking of the voices of little insects, I have always loved Keats’ line about the wailful choir of small gnats.

    Reply

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