In Praise of Autumn
|Alice Poon||Nov 18, 2007|
But it is nonetheless a season that I love – the crisp cool air, the yellow, gold and red foliage, the intermittent showers and rains, the dark rain clouds giving way to an orange and blue sky with an iridescent arc etched in it, the otherwise quiet paths singing with colorful fallen leaves strewn all over. It is the most picturesque yet most nostalgic season of the year.
If a blossoming pretty young girl with all the passion and exuberance of life can best describe the season of Summer, then Autumn is like a middle-aged woman maturing into her prime, with the passion and beauty of youth having just slipped noiselessly into oblivion, leaving years of distilled wisdom behind, written all over the face. Every fine line on that face tells a different story, sad or gay. The pace of life, almost unknowingly, has suddenly slowed, as if to allow time for the owner to dwell on the past and savor every bit of it. It is not that she does not want to say good-bye to the past, it’s just that it strikes her by surprise what a long and winding way she has come.
Yet Autumn is a season of contentment. She is finally at peace with herself – a luxury that Summer with all her restlessness would never have known nor understood. While Summer craves approval of others, beckoning people to come outdoors with all her charm. Autumn approves of herself, content to be left alone, not bothering to care what people think. Summer, which revels in sunshine and gaiety, can be arrogant, gregarious and narcissistic, but Autumn, while enjoying serenity and the pouring rains, cherishes the warmth of companionship as much as quiet solitude.
Poets usually associate Autumn with melancholy and the solemn march towards old age and death. Irish poet William Butler Yates’ “The Wild Swans at Coole” is one of them:-
The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine and fifty swans.
The nineteenth Autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold,
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.
But now they drift on the still water
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes, when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?
Another one by French poet Paul Verlaine, “Chanson d’Automne”:-
Les sanglots longs
Blessent mon cœur
Et blême, quand
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure ;
Et je m’en vais
Au vent mauvais
Pareil à la
These poems are classic portraits of the moods and sentiments that the season arouses. As long as one does not dwell in the melancholic mood for too long, lest one sinks into depression, the season of Autumn offers a good opportunity for people to immerse themselves in a bit of nostalgic romanticism. The Westerners have good reason to pack activities like Halloween trick-or-treating, Thanksgiving dining and pre-Christmas shopping into the months of October and November. The human mind needs a reprieve from the sadness that the season inspires.