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.
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,
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.
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
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
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
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.
free of passion as myself
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.