Fall fell quickly this year.
In much of Colorado, the trees were not long “in their autumn beauty.” We hiked through the same stretch of Pike National Forest between the mammalian peaks Marmot and Buffalo just a week apart; the trees wore a vibrant veil on our first visit and were bare by our second.
On Saturday, we filled two wrecking ball-size trash bags with leaves from a single tree in our front yard. By Sunday, we could have filled two more.
Though Yeats’s “harmony of leaves” concluded abruptly, the leaves themselves performed a ground-level encore, carpeting the earth in a remnant patchwork of yellow, orange and red, and dancing in the breeze. Autumn tends to stir the poetic side of one’s soul, but I heed John Keats, who in a letter to his publisher advises, “If poetry comes not as naturally as the Leaves to a tree it had better not come at all.”
“Where are the songs of Spring?” Keats asks in To Autumn, one of the great odes to the season. “Ay, where are they? Think not of them, thou hast thy music too…”
Chief among the rewards of maintaining this humble blog is the chance to interact with people who are more well-read than I and happen to have great taste. My reading list has swelled to multiple notepads, and my brain contains passages of books and poems I otherwise would have missed, like Humbert Wolfe’s Autumn (Resignation), which crisply captures the seasonal transition:
Listen! the wind is rising,
and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings,
now for October eves!
Not everyone embraces autumn with such exultation. Take Edgar Allan Poe’s late lament Ulalume, which, despite a childhood obsession with Poe, had gone unread by me:
The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crispéd and sere—
The leaves they were withering and sere:
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year…
Then there’s Shelley, who in Ode to the West Wind gives us romance with a chaser of macabre:
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Though politics embitters the quiet beauty of the season, it is appropriate that elections fall in autumn. Alexander Pope:
Words are like leaves; and where they most abound,
Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.
If only we could all see what Yeats saw in autumn and its byproduct: “Though leaves are many, the root is one…”