Poems: Autumn

Autumn by John Clare

The thistledown’s flying, though the winds are all still,
On the green grass now lying, now mounting the hill,
The spring from the fountain now boils like a pot;
Through stones past the counting it bubbles red-hot.

The ground parched and cracked is like overbaked bread,
The greensward all wracked is, bents dried up and dead.
The fallow fields glitter like water indeed,
And gossamers twitter, flung from weed unto weed.

Hill-tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,
And the rivers we’re eying burn to gold as they run;
Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;
Whoever looks round sees Eternity there.

Tell me not here, it needs not saying by A.E. Housman

Tell me not here, it needs not saying,
What tune the enchantress plays
In aftermaths of soft September
Or under blanching mays,
For she and I were long acquainted
And I knew all her ways.

On russet floors, by waters idle,
The pine lets fall its cone;
The cuckoo shouts all day at nothing
In leafy dells alone;
And traveller’s joy beguiles in autumn
Hearts that have lost their own.

On acres of the seeded grasses
The changing burnish heaves;
Or marshalled under moons of harvest
Stand still all night the sheaves;
Or beeches strip in storms for winter
And stain the wind with leaves.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

4 Responses

  1. Michael Strenk says:

    Beautiful. I hope you all will find the following appropriate, the first to the season and the time the second to the time.

  2. Michael Strenk says:

    The second link should have been this: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45532/november-1806

  3. Vince Cornell says:

    The Clare poem confuses me a bit. While some of the images are vivid (overbaked bread) the dry, hot Autumn is incongruous with my experience. I’m also not sure what a gossamer is or why it would twitter? (Crude web searches just brought be numerous Twitter accounts – blah!)

    Housman has been a favorite of mine, although I’m mostly ignorant in all things poetical. I think I’ve always drifted towards melancholy, probably now more than ever. Housman seems to resonate with me in ways I don’t understand.

  4. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Gossamer is so common a word we even find it in pop songs. “A trip to the moon on gossamer wings/–It was just one of those things.” Here I should think it refers to the wisps of thistledown being blown from plant to plant, though it might also be literally the gossamer of spider webbing observed in autumn. Clare is certainly not describing the Fall we know in North America, much less the Autumn described so beautifully by his contemporary Keats. You are certainly right that “twitter” strikes an odd note. I doubt this is a case of synesthesia but probably the sound the wind makes blowing the down.