The Materialistic Maiden

Where I sip coffee and judge everyone.

“Autumn Thoughts” by John Greenleaf Whittier

After an unexpected absence, I am back to continue my Autumnal-themed poetry and prose postings. To celebrate, I present a poem by one of my favorite poets-you’ve guessed it(!)- dear John G. Whittier. —Ann Neilson

Autumn Thoughts
John Greenleaf Whittier

GONE hath the Spring, with all its flowers,
And gone the Summer’s pomp and show,
And Autumn, in his leafless bowers,
Is waiting for the Winter’s snow.

I said to Earth, so cold and gray,
“An emblem of myself thou art;”
“Not so,” the Earth did seem to say,
“For Spring shall warm my frozen heart.”

I soothe my wintry sleep with dreams
Of warmer sun and softer rain,
And wait to hear the sound of streams
And songs of merry birds again.

But thou, from whom the Spring hath gone,
For whom the flowers no longer blow,
Who standest blighted and forlorn,
Like Autumn waiting for the snow;

No hope is thine of sunnier hours,
Thy Winter shall no more depart;
No Spring revive thy wasted flowers,
Nor Summer warm thy frozen heart.

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On the Life of Thomas Buchanan Read, alongside his poem, “The Withering Leaves”

thomas_buchanan_read_age_28

Thomas Buchanan Read is one of my favorite 19th century personalities. A poet and artist, he’s best known today for Sheridan’s RideHowever, his poetic repertoire definitely expands beyond that of this often studied poem; and although virtually unknown otherwise, his life is worth exploring, if even briefly.

Born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, on March 12, 1822, he grew up in a financially modest household. Unable to acquire formal education, according to The Knohl Collection online, he left home at the age of ten to remove himself to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he partook in various jobs that only benefited and catered to his growing artistic skill. He thus began painting and sculpting here, especially under the influence of Shobal Veil Clevenger, and with the aid of Nicholas Longworth (source). According to A Compendium of American Literature by Charles Dexter Cleveland, although starting as a sculptor, Read took to painting, which gained him success as an artist, and he removed to Boston, where he remained for five years in this profession (738).

Between the years 1841 and 1861, he wrote and painted prolifically, submitting to journals such as Graham’s Magazine and the Boston Courier, and moved back and forth between the United States and Europe, namely Italy, where he found beauty and conversation to inspire his profound mind (738). However, according to the History of Chester County, Pennsylvania, he was met with two majorly impactful blows, the first being the death of his first wife, Mary J. Pratt, and child, Lilian, due to a choleric epidemic while living in Florence in 1853; and the second being the outbreak of the Civil War, for which he volunteered under General Lew Wallace (Futhey, 707). Futhey states, “[Read’s] voice and pen, in patriotic addresses and poems, gave hearty encouragement to his countrymen in the great work of saving the national life. In this heroic struggle none surpassed Read in patriotic ardor….” (707). Following the Civil War, Read remarried to Harriet Dennison and moved to Italy in 1867 (The Knohl Collection). Four years later, he was critically injured by the overturning of his carriage, and he died that next year, on May 11, 1872, at the age of 50, just a few days after his arrival to New York. His death was due to complications of the carriage accident, and pneumonia. In the Poetical Works of T. Buchanan Read: New Revised Edition of 1894, it is stated in his memoir that “[he died] calmly on the evening of Saturday, May 11, in the arms of those who loved him best. ‘Your kisses are very sweet to me,’ were among his last words” (XX).*

Futhey imparts an effective passage describing Read’s character, stating the following:

The distinguishing characteristics of Read’s nature were purity of thought, refinement of feeling, gentleness of manner, generosity of disposition, geniality and unselfish devotion to others, and the possession of all those qualities of mind and character which attract and attach friends. Tenderness of feeling and delicacy in treatment were marked traits in all his work, whether with the pen or the pencil. Gifted with an extraordinary genius, Read was unlike many other men thus formed by nature. He relied for success not upon sudden, uncertain, and spasmodic impulses, but was a faithful, diligent, and conscientious worker by turns in the two distinct yet congenial fields of labor to which his talents were devoted, finding his only rest and recreation in the alternate use of his pen or pencil (707).

In the span of his life, Read saw 17, if not more, publications of his literary works, and was met with publicly celebrated reactions to both his literary and artistic pursuits. Some of his artistic works can be found between the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, in the Knohl Collection, and the Harvard University Art Museum, to name a few places.

In the spirit of my Autumnal poetry series, and after “painting” (pun intended) a “portrait” (pun intended once more) of this poet, I thus want to present a newfound favorite work by Read that I, regrettably, just stumbled across whilst finding works to share on this blog.

Without further ado—

The Withering Leaves
Thomas Buchanan Read

The summer is gone and the autumn is here,
And the flowers are strewing their earthly bier;
A dreary mist o’er the woodland swims,
While rattle the nuts from the windy limbs:
From bough to bough the squirrels run
At the noise of the hunter’s echoing gun,
And the partridge flies where my footstep heaves
The rustling drifts of the withering leaves.

The flocks pursue their southern flight—
Some all the day and some all night;
And up from the wooded marshes come
The sounds of the pheasant’s feathery drum.
On the highest bough the mourner crow
Sits in his funeral suit of woe:
All nature mourns—and my spirit grieves
At the noise of my feet in the withering leaves.

Oh! I sigh for the days that have passed away,
When my life like the year had its season of May;
When the world was all sunshine and beauty and truth,
And the dew bathed my feet in the valley of youth!
Then my heart felt its wings, and no bird of the sky
Sang over the flowers more joyous than I.
But Youth is a fable, and Beauty deceives;—
For my footsteps are loud in the withering leaves.

And I sigh for the time when the reapers at morn
Came down from the hill at the sound of the horn:
Or when dragging the rake, I followed them out
While they tossed the light sheaves with their laughter about;
Through the field, with boy-daring, barefooted I ran;
But the stubbles foreshadowed the path of the man.
Now the uplands of life lie all barren of sheaves—
While my footsteps are loud in the withering leaves!

*For a more in depth biographical read about T. B. R., consider The Poetical Works of T. Buchanan Read: New Revised Edition

“The Autumn” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I’m afraid illness has seized me these past few days. In the meanwhile, please accept this as a new addition to my Autumnal Poetry Series. -Ann 

The Autumn
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them —
The summer flowers depart —
Sit still — as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.

How there you sat in summer-time,
May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.

Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth
That flesh and dust impart:
We cannot bear its visitings,
When change is on the heart.
Gay words and jests may make us smile,
When Sorrow is asleep;
But other things must make us smile,
When Sorrow bids us weep!

The dearest hands that clasp our hands, —
Their presence may be o’er;
The dearest voice that meets our ear,
That tone may come no more!
Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,
Which once refresh’d our mind,
Shall come — as, on those sighing woods,
The chilling autumn wind.

Hear not the wind — view not the woods;
Look out o’er vale and hill-
In spring, the sky encircled them —
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn’s scathe — come winter’s cold —
Come change — and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne’er be desolate. 

“To***” by Henry William Herbert

It is always a treat to read Herbert’s poetry, for it is unlike his other work. As far as authorship is concerned, he was an outstanding and prolific sportswriter, essayist, translator of the classical languages, prose writer, and editor—he also wrote outstanding poetry. His poems are what really captured my interest in his work, aside from his tumultuous biography; and, although I am saving his especial treasures to feature after the conclusion of my biographical series—which I am tardy on updating—I wish to periodically share some of his other touching or captivating pieces until then. And thus, following “Sunset on the Hudson,” I present “To***”. -Ann Neilson 

To***
Henry William Herbert
The Magnolia of 1837 

WE are not parted—no!—Though never more
Thy cherished form may greet my watchful eye—
Nor thy soft voice speak welcome to mine ear,
Sweeter than summer music.—Seas may roll,
And realms unnumbered stretch their boundless width,
A wearisome gulf between!—Long years of wo
May lag above us, with their icy weight
Freezing the healthful current of our lives!—
Yea, death himself, with blighting fingers cold
May sunder us, not e’er to meet again
On this side immortality! Thy frame
May gently moulder to its natural dust—
Dewed by the tear-drops of lamenting friends—
Mine rot unhonored in a foreign soil,
Without a stone to mark the exile’s head,
Or blessed ministry of holy church
To smooth the sinner’s passage to his God.
Yet so we are not parted!—Souls like ours,
Knit by so strong a harmony of love,
With hopes, fears, sorrows, sympathies the same,
Still commune with each other, twin in one
Indissolubly joined, and yet more near,
When dies the clay, that dims the immortal spark.

“Autumn! thou art with us…” by James B. Marshall, found in the New-York Mirror of 1837

The following article is transcribed from the New-York Mirror of  October 28, 1837, pg. 139. I had recently erroneously misattributed the article to the editors of the New-York Mirror; however, Netherlands scholar Ton F— kindly directed me towards the author and provided the following statement, which I feel is beneficial to the article in its own right,

The real author was James B. Marshall from Louisville KY, at the time editor of the Western Weekly Magazine in Ohio. The piece first appeared in the Louisville City Gazette of Sept 1, 1837, but was written one year earlier. It was called ‘September’, and renamed several times (for instance as Autumn: a Morceau) in many reprints. Marshall wrote the following polite introduction to his piece:
“The season of fruits and falling leaves is here; and seasonably is it ushered in. We have a bright, fresh and balmy day – and a breeze slightly spiced, braced and invigorating, after the heat of summer. One year ago we scribbled a short invocation to autumn. Is it less worthy than it was then? It was but the outpouring of feelings long and still cherished. Some of our cotemporaries flattered its naturalness and made mention of it in complimentary terms. May we be pardoned for repeating this brief evocation?”

-Ann Neilson

Autumn! thou art with us. Already we feel the prickles in the morning air; and the stars shine out with a peculiar lustre. Shortly we shall see the rich tints which thou flingest on the woodlands, and then thy russet livery. And if thou art now bright, and gay, and beautiful, thou art not less lovely when thy hazy atmosphere spreads a voluptuous softness over nature; when the sun himself is shorn of his beams, and, like a pale planet, wanders through the sky. Autumn! with its fields of ripening corn, and its trees laden with fruit, and its vines with the clustering grapes,

“Reeling to earth, purple and gushing;”

and clear, sparkling streams, and salmon-fishing, and field sports is here. Out in the autumn woods! The broad leaf of the sycamore hath fallen upon the streamlet, and hath passed on with its tumbling waters, or disports them where it has rested against some obstruction. The buckeye is bare; the maple is golden-leaved, save where is spread on a field of orange, the hectick [sic] flush which marks approaching decay, or where the sap is yet faintly coursing and a delicate green remains. The oak is of a deep crimson, and the gum even yet of a bloodier hue. Far off on the tall cliff is the spiral pine and cedar, in their eternal green. Out in the autumn woods! when leaves are falling like the flakes in the snow-storm. It is a time for reflection; it is a time for lofty contemplation. The soul is full, if it have the capacity to feel, and it gushes forth, though the tongue speak not. And yet it is irresistible to roam the autumn woods, and listen to the thousand whispering tongues which fill the air. The fulness [sic] of feeling must be relieved by the merry shout and loud halloo. We welcome thee, Autumn! Thou art the dearest to us of the seasons—save the flower-month. We hail thy coming now, not as has been our wont. Since thou were last here, we have lost friends; and in thy wailing winds, and out beneath thy sky, and roaming through thy varied gorgeous liveried wood, our thoughts shall be turned to their memories.

“Sunset on the Hudson” by Henry William Herbert

Untitled

Sunset on the Hudson
By Henry William Herbert
Found in The Magnolia for 1837
(This poem is here paired with its original, featured engraving.)

In the cloud-curtained chambers of the west,
Serene and glorious, he hath sunk to rest—
Immortal giant—but his parting kiss
Hath steeped his earthly bride in holier bliss,
Than when she sunned her in his rapturous ray
Of noontide ardor. Slow they glide away,
The gorgeous gleams that flash from Hudson’s tide,
And paint the woods that gird old Beacon’s side;
Yet round the clouds, that veil the bridegroom’s head,
A fringe of lucent glory still is spread;
While, from the zenith, tints of deeper blue
Steal o’er the bright horizon’s azure hue,
Rob the broad forests of their verdant cheer,
And tinge the silvery brook with shadows clear.
The dewy rushes wave in arrowy ranks,
Now gilt, now gloomy, on the darkening banks;
And snowy sails, that stud the distant river,
Glance, and are lost, as in the breeze they shiver.
There is a thrill in the awakening flush
Of early morn—there is a breathless hush
In fainting noonday—but the faëry space,
That parts the evening from the night’s embrace,
Breathes out a stronger charm, a purer spell,
Bathing the soul in thoughts, that fondly swell
Like sacred music’s melancholy close,—
Sweeter than grief, and sadder than repose.
And is it fancy’s fond delusion only,
That hallows so these woods and waters lonely?—
Or is there in each bold majestic hill
A mighty legend, in each tinkling rill
A whispering voice, and in the wind’s low sigh,
Telling of days and deeds that ne’er shall die?
‘Tis holy all, and haunted!—Each green tree
Hath its own tale, each leaf its memory.
The streams, that knew the Indian’s tread of yore,
The breezy hills, with rock-ribbed summits hoar,
The lordly river, with its ceaseless moan,
Have all a power more potent than their own;
For each and all, with echoing pride, have rung
To the wild peal which freedom’s trumpet sung,
When forth, to shield his bleeding country’s breast,
HE stood—The Cincinnatus of the West—
The founder of a world—whose course was run
All bright and blessing!—like yon setting sun,
Alone of men, HIS youth was spotless seen,
His manhood mighty, and his end serene;
Without one blot to dim his deathless name,
Or bid the nations weep, that watch his fame.

A Succession of Autumnal Poems by Jones Very

Very is a poet dear to my heart. In life, his character seemed unlike any of his contemporaries, being stereotyped for his curious eccentricity and zealous and turgid religious views; yet, far after death, the nature of his devout and blessed soul continues to speak sincerely, humbly and eloquently in his sonnets and other poetical writings. I hope you are, also, able to find the underlying beauty within this solitary gentleman in the three poems below.

THE ACORN.
THE seed has started,—who can stay it? see,
The leaves are sprouting high above the ground;
Already o’er the flowers, its head; the tree
That rose beside it and that on it frowned,
Behold! is but a small bush by its side.
Still on! it cannot stop; its branches spread;
It looks o’er all the earth in giant pride.
The nations find upon its limbs their bread,
Its boughs their millions shelter from the heat,
Beneath its shade see kindreds, tongues, and all
That the wide world contains, they all retreat
Beneath the shelter of that acorn small
That late thou flung away; ’twas the best gift
That heaven e’er gave;—its head the low shall lift.

LINES
TO A WITHERED LEAF SEEN ON A POET’S TABLE.
POET’S hand has placed thee there,
Autumn’s brown and withered scroll!
Though to outward eye not fair,
Thou hast beauty for the soul,

Though no human pen has traced
On that leaf its learned lore,
Love divine the page has graced,—
What can words discover more?

Not alone dim Autumn’s blast
Echoes from yon tablet sear,—
Distant music of the Past
Steals upon the poet’s ear.

Voices sweet of summer hours,
Spring’s soft whispers murmur by;
Feathered songs from leafy bowers
Draw his listening soul on high.

THE DEAD.
I SEE them,—crowd on crowd they walk the earth
Dry leafless trees to autumn wind laid bare;
And in their nakedness find cause for mirth,
And all unclad would winter’s rudeness dare;
No sap doth through their clattering branches flow,
Whence springing leaves and blossoms bright appear;
Their hearts the living God have ceased to know
Who gives the spring time to th’ expectant year;
They mimic life, as if from him to steal
His glow of health to paint the livid cheek;
They borrow words for thoughts they cannot feel,
That with a seeming heart their tongue may speak;
And in their show of life more dead they live
Than those that to the earth with many tears they give.

(The poems in this post are borrowed from this transcription of Essays and Poems by Jones Very.)

On John Keats’ influence of Thomas Hood’s “Ode To Autumn”

I picked up a copy of English Romantic Poets a few years back, an anthology containing writers such as Shelley, Byron, Coleridge, Beddoes—the typical English poets. In accordance of keeping up with my Fall series, I took to it and found a delightful poem I would like to share, by Thomas Hood (whom I’d never heard of, egad). However, I felt the poem needed a little more substance, rather than slapping it on the page and calling it a day. Little did I know that poet John Keats, whose poetry I quite dislike, may have inspired Hood’s own poem. More on that now.

For convenience’s sake and due to the brief, albeit analytical nature of this discussion,  here is a link to Keats’ “To Autumn.”

The two never met, according to Alvin Whitley in Keats and Hood,” found in the Keats-Shelley Journal of Winter, 1956. They did, however, share friends, acquaintances, and professional contacts (33). After Keats’s death, Hood found himself immersed in the former’s circle and soon became close friends with John Hamilton Reynolds, who is considered to be Keats’s best friend (33-34). Not only was the connection formidable, but it was further cemented by Hood’s betrothal to Reynold’s sister, Jane (35). Although indirect, the familial and acquainted ties within the overarching group certainly interwove the connection between Hood and Keats.

Whitley states, “Though Keats and Hood never met in the flesh, they met in English poetic tradition. Lately it has been one of Hood’s major distinctions that he was the first English poet to react significantly to the stimulus of Keats. The tenor of his reaction is of some importance, for it was that of most of the nineteenth-century imitators of Keats, Hood retained, with considerable dilution, the mood, the music, the imagery, the diction, the atmosphere, the settings of Keats’s poems; he ignored…the philosophy of Keats” (39). This is significant to note as it will be the key to comparing Keats’s “To Autumn” and Hood’s own featured “Ode to Autumn.”

Of our two poems in question, Whitley continues in his article with an excellent analysis. Using the tools quoted above—mood, music, imagery, diction, atmosphere, and setting—Whitley expertly analyzes and compares the two poems, which I feel I could not do as great of justice as he. He explains,

…”Ode: Autumn” affords the best possible example. The poem opens with a personification of Autumn—as a male figure—standing shadowless and silent. The poet asks and answers a series of similar questions: where are the songs, the birds, the blooms of summer? They have fled, following the seasons. Some of the creatures of nature are pictured as rejoicing in their hoards; others have flown. Here the Autumn-Melancholy—a female figure—dwells, weeping and reckoning up the dead, while the world looks on sadly. The poem ends with an apostrophe to go and join her; there are enough withered things to make her bower, enough sadness, sorrowing, fear, and despair. Keats, of course, saw and captured the quiet beauty of mellow fruitfulness and fulfilled ripeness; behind his poem is a pagan acceptance of the natural cycle. Hood gives us a moody description; behind his poem is the vague sentiment: the end of things is always sad, alas and farewell…

The translation of imagery corresponds to the translation of mood. The essence of Keatsian imagery, I take it, lies in original preciseness and immediacy, usually grounded in sensual perceptions—”With beaded bubbles winking at the brim.” Abstractions are either personified or qualified in a strikingly new and exact way—”aching Pleasure,” “embalmed darkness.” The imagery of “To Autumn” is as precise as the scope of the subject will allow: “barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,” and even a cliché such as “rosy hue” is linked with “touch the stubble-plains” (41-42).

To continue off of Whitley’s analysis, and to conclude this post before presenting Hood’s poem—the major difference I notice between these two pieces, what brings them absolute distinction, is indeed the tone of the poems. Keats begs to know, “Where are the songs of spring? / Ay, Where are they?,” before complacently waving away this melancholic yearning and concluding, “Think not of them, thou [Autumn] hast thy music too,—” He awaits the renewal of Spring with optimism, finding idealistic pleasure in Autumn’s gloom, “Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft / The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;  / And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.” Hood contrastingly bemoans the autumnal changes, giving us his “moody description”: “There is enough of sorrowing and quite / Enough of bitter fruits the earth doth bear,— / Enough of chilly droppings for her bowl;  / Enough of fear and shadowy despair.” Nothing seems to redeem the forlorn atmosphere consuming Hood, whereas sprightly Keats muses acceptingly over the changes and takes them in stride. Hood is immersed and static, momentum haesit; Keats willingly moves forward with hope.

ODE
Autumn
Thomas Hood
I
I saw old Autumn in the misty morn
Stand shadowless like Silence, listening
To silence, for no lonely bird would sing
Into his hollow ear from woods forlorn,
Nor lowly hedge nor solitary thorn;
Shaking his languid locks all dewy bright
With tangled gossamer that fell by night,
Pearling his coronet of golden corn.

II
Where are the songs of Summer?—With the sun,
Opening the dusky eyelids of the south,
Till shade and silence waken up as one,
And Morning sings with a warm odorous mouth.
Where are the merry birds?—Away, away,
On panting wings through the inclement skies,
Lest owls should prey
Undazzled at noon-day,
And tear with horny beak their lustrous eyes.

III
Where are the blooms of Summer?—In the west,
Blushing their last to the last sunny hours.
When the mild Eve by sudden Night is prest
Like tearful Proserpine, snatch’d from her flow’rs
To a most gloomy breast.
Where is the pride of Summer,—the green prime,—
The many, many leaves all twinkling?—Three
On the moss’d elm; three on the naked lime
Trembling,—and one upon the old oak tree!
Where is the Dryad’s immortality?—
Gone into mournful cypress and dark yew,
Or wearing the long gloomy Winter through
In the smooth holly’s green eternity.

IV
The squirrel gloats on his accomplish’d hoard,
The ants have brimm’d their garners with ripe grain,
And honey been save stored
The sweets of summer in their luscious cells;
The swallows all have wing’d across the main;
But here the Autumn melancholy dwells,
And sighs her tearful spells
Amongst the sunless shadows of the plain.
Alone, alone,
Upon a mossy stone,
She sits and reckons up the dead and gone,
With the last leaves for a love-rosary;
Whilst all the wither’d world looks drearily,
Like a dim picture of the drownëd past
In the hush’d mind’s mysterious far-away,
Doubtful what ghostly thing will steal the last
Into that distance, gray upon the gray.

V
O go and sit with her, and be o’ershaded
Under the languid downfall of her hair;
She wears a coronal of flowers faded
Upon her forehead, and a face of care;—
There is enough of wither’d everywhere
To make her bower,—and enough of gloom;
There is enough of sadness to invite,
If only for the rose that died, whose doom
Is Beauty’s,—she that with the living bloom
Of conscious cheeks most beautifies the light:
There is enough of sorrowing, and quite
Enough of bitter fruits the earth doth bear,—
Enough of chilly droppings from her bowl;
Enough of fear and shadowy despair,
To frame her cloudy prison for the soul!

For further reading: an excellent literary analysis of Hood’s poem alone.

Elizabeth Oaksmith’s “The First Leaf of Autumn”

“…for the breath of autumn had passed over them changing their color, but as yet few were displaced. The distant hills, and slopes of the river, looked as if some gorgeous drapery had been drawn over the rich earth.”—The Western Captive and Other Indian Stories by Elizabeth Oakes Smith, pg. 139

How glorious is this time of transition? I never feel I can exhaust my delight with autumn and its artistic presentation. I am grateful for poets of the past who are able to adequately describe the rich beauty of the season and its fruitful splendor. Thus, Elizabeth Oaksmith is today’s spotlighted poet, due to her skillful representation of Fall. Was there no end to her other-worldly abilities as a writer?

However, before the poem—although I do not usually pair music with my transcriptions, I happened to be listening to this song by South Korean musician Yiruma whilst transcribing Oaksmith’s poem, and I feel it sonorously echoes her words.

“The First Leaf of Autumn”

I SEE thee fall, thou quivering leaf, of faint and yellow hue,
The first to feel the autumn winds, that, blighting, o’er thee blew—
Slow-parted from the rocking branch, I see thee floating by,
To brave, all desolate and lone, the bleak autumnal sky.

Alas! the first, the yellow leaf—how sadly falls it there,
To rustle on the crispéd grass, with every chilly air!
It tells of those that soon must drop all withered from the tree,
And it hath waked a sadder chord in deathless memory.

Thou eddying leaf, away, away, there’s sorrow in thy hue;
Thou soundst the knell of sunny hours, of buds, and liquid dew—
And thou dost tell how from the heart the blooms of hope decay;
How each one lingers, loath to part, till all are swept away.

Charles Fenno Hoffman’s “Indian Summer, 1828”

Although we are many months and several forecasts away from experiencing an “Indian Summer”—should mother nature bestow one upon us this year—I feel this poem is worthy of my “Autumn” series. (Regardless of my bias, being that this was written by my favorite author—) Charles Fenno Hoffman delicately and accurately spins golden worded-webs and autumnal threads throughout this romantic poem. Connecting with personal recollections of childhood, he paints nostalgic images of the woodlands, and strives to remind the reader of nature’s beauty and unchanging devotion. -Ann Neilson

“Indian Summer, 1828”

LIGHT as love’s smile the silvery mist at morn
Floats in loose flakes along the limpid river ;
The blue-bird’s notes upon the soft breeze borne,
As high in air he carols, faintly quiver ;
The weeping birch, like banners idly waving,
Bends to the stream, its spicy branches laving.
Beaded with dew the witch-elm’s tassels
shiver;
The timid rabbit from the furze is peeping.
And from the springy spray the squirrel gayly leaping.

I love thee. Autumn, for thy scenery, ere
The blasts of winter chase the varied dyes
That richly deck the slow declining year ;
I love the splendor of thy sunset skies,
The gorgeous hues that tint each failing leaf
Lovely as beauty’s cheek, as woman’s love too,
brief;
I love the note of each wild bird that flies.
As on the wind he pours his parting lay,
And wings his loitering flight to summer climes
away.

O Nature ! fondly I still turn to thee
With feelings fresh as e’er my chilhood’s were;
Though wild and passion -tost my youth may be,
Toward thee I still the same devotion bear ;
To thee — to thee — though health and hope no more
Life’s wasted verdure may to me restore —
Still — still, childlike I come, as when in prayer
I bowed my head upon a mother’s knee,
And deem’d the world, like her, all truth and purity.*

*It was indicated to me by Netherlands historian Ton F— that an alternative version of the last stanza exists, for which I thank him earnestly. Upon research, I found said stanza in the New York Mirror of September 22, 1832, on page 91, under the pseudonym “H,” a pseudonym (if it may be called one) used frequently by Hoffman in both the New-York Mirror and the American Monthly Magazine (which I will discuss in a later post).

The stanza is as follows,

“Oh, nature! still I fondly turn to thee,
With feelings fresh as e’er my boyhood’s were,
However cold my reckless heart may be,
To thee I still the same devotion bear.
In all life’s changes yet my feelings will
To thee be true, as to his office still
Is he who fixed by right prescriptive there—
(Though even thou shouldst break thy wonted order)—
In every party change yet finds himself “recorder.”

Oaken Reed

Wander with me awhile. Ponder with me awhile.

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