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Rich and golden as the fruits of Autumn, are the following stanzas of one of the true poets of times not long past :
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness !
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to 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'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store ?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad
Thee sitting careless on a granary-floor,
Thy hair soft lifted by the winnowing wind ;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed 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 cider-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 redbreast whistles from a garden croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.-KEATS.
After this beautiful imagery, the blank verse of another poet of the same period sounds somewhat prosaic;—but it has its charms :
Nay, William, nay, not so ! the changeful year
In all its due successions to my sight
Presents but varied beauties, transient all,
All in their season good. These fading leaves,
That with their rich variety of hues
Make yonder forest in the slanting sun
So beautiful, in you awake the thought
Of winter-cold, drear winter, when these trees,
Each like a fleshless skeleton shall stretch
Its bare brown boughs; when not a flower shall spread
Its colours to the day, and not a bird
Carol its joyaunce,-but all nature wear
One sullen aspect, bleak and desolate,
To eye, ear, feeling, comfortless alike.
To me their many-coloured beauties speak
Of times of merriment and festival,
The year's best holiday: I call to mind
The school boy days, when in the falling leaves
I saw with eager hope the pleasant sign
Of coming Christmas ; when at morn I took
My wooden kalendar, and counting up
Once more its often-told account, smooth'd off
Each day with more delight the daily notch.
the beauties of the autumnal year Make mournful emblems, and
think of man Doom'd to the grave's long winter, spirit-broken, Bending beneath the burthen of his
Sense-dulld and fretful, “ full of aches and pains,”
Yet clinging still to life. To me they show
The calm decay of nature, when the mind
Retains its strength, and in the languid eye
Religion's holy hope kindles a joy
That makes old age look lovely. All to you
Is dark and cheerless; you in this fair world
See some destroying principle abroad,
Air, earth, and water, full of living things,
Each on the other preying; and the ways
Of man, a strange, perplexing labyrinth,
Where crimes and miseries, each producing each,
Render life loathsome, and destroy the hope
That should in death bring comfort. Oh, my friend,
That thy faith were as mine! that thou couldst see
Death still producing life, and evil still
Working its own destruction; couldst behold
The strifes and troubles of this troubled world
With the strong eye that sees the promised day
Dawn through this night of tempest! All things then
Would minister to joy; then should thine heart
Be heal’d and harmonized, and thou wouldst feel
God always, every where, and all in all.-SOUTHEY.
SHELLEY, the great master of harmony, has one of his finest lyrics for Autumn :
The warm sun is failing, the bleak wind is wailing,
The bare boughs are sighing, the pale flowers are dying,
And the year
On the earth her death-bed, in a shroud of leaves dead,
Come, months, come away,
From November to May,
Follow the bier
Of the dead cold
And like dim shadows watch by her sepulchre.
The chill rain is falling, the night-worm is crawling,
The rivers are swelling, the thunder is knelling
For the year;
The blithe swallows are flown, and the lizards each gone
To his dwelling;
Come, months, come away,
Put on white, black, and grey,
Let your light sisters play-
Ye follow the bier
Of the dead cold year,
And make her grave green with tear on tear.
Who has not felt that Autumn is a mournful type of human life? Who ever expressed the feeling more tenderly than Shakspere?
That time of year thou mayest in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou seest the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
The Ayrshire ploughman paints the season with his own transparent colours :
'Twas when the stacks get on their winter-hap,
And thack and rape secure the toil-won crap;
Potato bings are snugged up frae skaith
O'coming winter's biting, frosty breath;
The bees, rejoicing o'er their summer toils,
Unnumber'd buds an' flow'rs' delicious spoils,
Seal'd with frugal care in massive waxen piles,
Are doom'd by man, that tyrant o'er the weak,
The death o' devils, smoor'd wi' brimstone reek:
The thund'ring guns are heard on ev'ry side,
The wounded coveys, reeling, scatter wide ;
The feather'd field-mates, bound by nature's tie,
Sires, mothers, children, in one carnage lie:
(What warm poetic heart, but inly bleeds,
And execrates man's savage, ruthless deeds!)
Nae mair the flow'r in field or meadow springs ;
Nae mair the grove with airy concert rings,
Except perhaps the robin's whistling glee,
Proud o' the height o' some bit half-lang tree:
The hoary morns precede the sunny days,
Mild, calm, serene, wide spreads the noontide blaze,
While thick the gossamour waves wanton in the rays.
COLERIDGE looks upon the fields with the unerring eye of the poetpaturalist :
The tedded hay, the first fruits of the soil,
The tedded hay and corn-sheaves in one field,
Show summer gone, ere come. The fox-glove tall
Sheds its loose purple bells, or in the gust,
Or when it bends beneath the up-springing lark,
Or mountain-finch alighting. And the rose
(In vain the darling of successful love)
Stands like some boasted beauty of past years,
The thorns remaining, and the flowers all gone.
Nor can I find, amid my lonely walk
By rivulet, or spring, or wet road-side,
That blue and bright-eyed floweret of the brook,
Hope's gentle gem, the sweet Forget-me-not !
One of our own day not less poetically and truly describes the Autumn flower-garden :
A spirit haunts the year's last hours
Dwelling amid these yellowing bowers :
To himself he talks ;
For at eventide, listening earnestly,
At his work you may hear him sob and sigh
In the walks ;
Earthward he boweth the heavy stalks
Of the mouldering flowers.
Heavily hangs the broad sunflower
Over its grave i' the earth so chilly;
Heavily hangs the hollyhock,
Heavily hangs the tiger-lily.
The air is damp, and hush'd, and close,
As a sick man's room when he taketh repose