Posted by: Jussara & Carol


The Poetry of Autumn

Forget spring. Fall is the season for poetry.

by Annie Finch

“The poetry of earth is never dead,” wrote John Keats, and yet that quintessential poet of autumn, his own life fading as the colors of his glory blazed and flew, was exquisitely alive to the season’s dying. His sleeping Autumn, cheeks flushed and hair awry, personifies the sensual richness of the early part of the season as iconically as the yellow leaves of Shakespeare’s Sonnet LXXIII embody the forlorn grandeur of the late. And yet both of these poems contain the tinge of their opposites, more exquisite for being so subtle: the unspoken sexual passion in the sonnet and the hint of the ominous in the ode (the wailing of the bugs, the swallows gathering) are so delicate they are barely there. 

Through just this kind of sensitivity to duality, the poetry of autumn tends to ambiguity—and to greatness. What poet or lover of poetry could resist, now, when death and beauty are afoot? Together? The stereotypical poet writes of spring; the odds are that any parody of poetry will involve twittering and budding. But Millay answers, from the end of “The Death of Autumn”: “Beauty stiffened, staring up at the sky! / Oh, Autumn! Autumn—What is the Spring to me?”

The evidence for the greatness of autumn poetry, at least in the Romantic tradition in English, is everywhere: Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind”, Keats’s “To Autumn”, Hopkins’s “Spring and Fall”, Yeats’s “The Wild Swans at Coole”, H.D.’s “Orchard”, Stevens’s “The Auroras of Autumn”, Brooks’s “Beverly Hills, Chicago.” Dickinson seemed to take the connection between poetry and autumn for granted, writing “Besides the Autumn poets sing / a few prosaic days” as if it were as standard a subject for poetry in her mind as spring is in ours. It seems likely that her own “Wild nights – Wild nights!”, not to mention its ancient ancestor, “O Western Wind,” was inspired by late autumn, by the kind of mood when Rilke wrote, “Whoever’s homeless now, will build no shelter; / who lives alone will live indefinitely so.”

Rilke’s poem partakes of the tradition of relentless autumn poems, those sad or bitter mournings of the season, the “withered” world on which Alice Cary so utterly turns her back. This is the aspect of autumn that drives Walter de la Mare, in “Autumn,” to spell-like obsession:

There is a wind where the rose was;
Cold rain where sweet grass was . . .
Sad winds where your voice was;
Tears, tears where my heart was . . .

It drives Paul Verlaine to hear such long long sobs, and most brutally of all perhaps, Adam Zagajewski to political despair at the power of autumn “merciless in her blaze / and her breath”.


(To read the rest of the article, visit The Poetry Foundation site)

To Autumn

By John Keats

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 ladenladen Loaded down 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.


Forgetfulness is like a song
That, freed from beat and measure, wanders.
Forgetfulness is like a bird whose wings are reconciled,
Outspread and motionless, —
A bird that coasts the wind unwearyingly.

Forgetfulness is rain at night,
Or an old house in a forest, — or a child.
Forgetfulness is white, — white as a blasted tree,
And it may stun the sybil into prophecy,
Or bury the Gods.

I can remember much forgetfulness.

Hart Crane



Mene metsään
Mene vuorille
Mene kauas merelle
Anna yksinäisyyden hyväillä sinua
Kunnes ihosi on kyllin ohut
Niin ohut
Että sydämesi
Näkee sen läpi minut
Että minä se olin
Joka hyväilin,
Hyväilen sinua,
Mene, mene

Tommy Tabermann (1947- )


Go to the forest
Go to the mountains
Go to the far off sea
Let loneliness
Caress you
Until your skin is thin enough
So thin that your heart
Sees me through it
That I was the one
Who caressed you,
Who caresses you
Go, go.

Tommy Tabermann  |  English Translation: Börje Vähämäki