Ode to Autumn
Last week September came rushing into our lives. To me it felt like some kind of drowsy spell had broken and I was finally motivated to do all the things I had told myself I would do over the summer months. While I doubt there is a witch casting spells on my productivity levels – although I would be thrilled if it were the case – there is some magic in the season of autumn.
According to the astronomical calendar, the season in the Northern Hemisphere doesn’t start until the 22nd of September – made obvious by the trees filled with green leaves outside my window and the promise of a heatwave for England. However, I can’t help but yearn after this ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ that is promised as soon as our calendars flip from August to September. Rooted in my intense love for autumn is my forever-student mentality that considers the 1st of September as more of a cause for celebration and resolutions than the New Year in January. The sluggish indulgences of summer should be over now colder months are at our doorstep, we should now concentrate on trying to become the better, more hard-working people that we promise to be every year. As someone starting her second year of university very soon, the image of productivity that comes with new pens, notepads, and timetables is incredibly tantalising. I’m as driven by aesthetics as much as by personal motivations, it seems.
The less productive side of autumn is, of course, another cause of excitement. Television seems to be revived with new seasons of brilliant shows being pumped out by broadcasters to the extent that I need a small timetable in my diary to keep up with it all - and I don’t particularly consider myself a great watcher of television. Cinema listings become packed with a fresh wave of films after the summer blockbusters stagnate. Halloween, in all its tacky and commodified glory, awaits us at the top of the season, paving the way for the celebrations of November and December.
As a literature student, I feel it’s only right to share with you some of my favourite words on the subject of autumn ever committed to paper. I hope you enjoy them, and that you in the Northern Hemisphere enjoy this wonderful season (to those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, happy spring!)
Everywhere on cobble and gravel and lawn, the leaves were falling and in the college gardens the smoke of the bonfires joined the wet river mist, drifting across the grey walls; the flags were oily underfoot and as, one by one, the lamps were lit in the windows round the quad, the golden lights were diffuse and remote, new figures in new gowns wandered through the twilights under the arches and the familiar bells now spoke of a year’s memories.
Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (1945)
O dying splendour of the dying woods!
Was never sunset glory more divine;
Nor ever yet did irised goblet shine
With gleaming vintage of the rarest wine,
So richly blent with rainbow-tinted floods.
Henry Raine, ‘The Indian Summer’ (1872)
The autumn leaves, ravaged as they are, take on the flash of tattered flags kindling in the gloom of cool cathedral caves where gold letters on marble pages describe death in battle and how bones bleach and burn far away in Indian sands. The autumn trees gleam in the yellow moonlight, in the light of harvest moons, the light which mellows the energy of labour, and smooths the stubble, and brings the wave lapping blue to the shore.
Virginia Woolf, ‘To the Lighthouse’ (1927)
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; Conspiring with hum how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run; To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-tress, 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'erbrimm'd their clammy cells.
John Keats, 'Ode to Autumn' (1820)