Thursday, November 5, 2009

New England in Autumn

When the leaves turn to fire and the winds come from Canada, the air in New England turns crisp and clear. The turgid air of summer is gone, as are the summer crowds. The lighthouse still flashes its warnings, but few pleasure craft remain to take heed I walk across the empty beaches, through the quiet forests, through the town square, peering through large panes ofr glass at signs advertising end-of-season discounts.

The shop signs rattle in the breeze. I sit at an empty table outside the cafe and sip cocoa, steam rising around my head as I lift the mug to my lips.

This is not the cold of winter, when the Atlantic foams and roars, bringing the kind of bone-numbing chill that can be eased only by sitting before a roaring fire, sipping a peated whisky or old cognac. It is a gentle touch of cold, a harbinger of the season to come.

For now, the harvest is over, the tourists have gone, the shutters have been placed on the summer homes, and there is time to be alone.

"Autumn," by Thomas Hood.

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.

Where are the songs of Summer?--With the sun,
Oping 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 noonday,
And tear with horny beak their lustrous eyes.

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.

The squirrel gloats on his accomplish'd hoard,
The ants have brimm'd their garners with ripe grain,
And honey bees have 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 drowned 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.

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 for her bowl;
Enough of fear and shadowy despair,
To frame her cloudy prison for the soul!

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