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October 02, 2008

Poems for the Season

Whenever this time of year rolls around, I begin to miss the seasons I grew up with. The same thing happens in April, when spring starts breaking out in earnest. Down here in the sub-tropics, the only thing we notice is a change in the light. The sun is lazy getting out of bed and seems to knock off early. As a child I noted that the sky always seemed bluer in the crisp morning air of October and early November, though maybe it was only the sharp contrast of Gold and yellow leaves against the sky.

Two poems that always come to mind this time of year are <b>October’s Bright Blue Weather</b> by Helen Hunt Jackson, and <b>October</b> by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Both praise the month as a feast for the senses and both are largely observational, though Dunbar personifies the month very effectively. They are relatively short – read both and decide which you like best. They both are effective at mixing the brash and the bittersweet – the sensory splashes that make you feel alive and the reminders of mortality that winter will bring.

PC is currently in the middle of several projects surrounding Dunbar, by the way. One is a sampling of his works recited by modern-day poets and performers.  A couple of the first-pass attempts at videos are on The Other Pages Facebook page. Take a look and a listen. Special thanks to Geoff Cipes for his generous help and limitless patience.


October's Bright Blue Weather

O SUNS and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October's bright blue weather;

When loud the bumblebee makes haste,
Belated, thriftless vagrant,
And goldenrod is dying fast,
And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

When gentians roll their fingers tight
To save them for the morning,
And chestnuts fall from satin burrs
Without a sound of warning;

When on the ground red apples lie
In piles like jewels shining,
And redder still on old stone walls
Are leaves of woodbine twining;

When all the lovely wayside things
Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
And in the fields still green and fair,
Late aftermaths are growing;

When springs run low, and on the brooks,
In idle golden freighting,
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
Of woods, for winter waiting;

When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
By twos and twos together,
And count like misers, hour by hour,
October's bright blue weather.

O sun and skies and flowers of June,
Count all your boasts together,
Love loveth best of all the year
October's bright blue weather.

    --Helen Hunt Jackson


OCTOBER is the treasurer of the year,
    And all the months pay bounty to her store:
The fields and orchards still their tribute bear,
    And fill her brimming coffers more and more.
But she, with youthful lavishness,
Spends all her wealth in gaudy dress,
    And decks herself in garments bold
    Of scarlet, purple, red, and gold.

She heedeth not how swift the hours fly,
    But smiles and sings her happy life along;
She only sees above a shining sky;
    She only hears the breezes' voice in song.
Her garments trail the woodland through,
And gather pearls of early dew
    That sparkle till the roguish Sun
    Creeps up and steals them every one.

But what cares she that jewels should be lost,
    When all of Nature's bounteous wealth is hers?
Though princely fortunes may have been their cost,
    Not one regret her calm demeanor stirs.
Whole-hearted, happy, careless, free,
She lives her life out joyously,
    Nor cares when Frost stalks o'er her way
    And turns her auburn locks to gray.

    --Paul Laurence Dunbar

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