ANONYMOUS, “Autumn Thoughts,” The Boston Literary Magazine, November 1832

ANONYMOUS, “Autumn Thoughts,” The Boston Literary Magazine, November

TREASURE! This poem, published at the end of the fall season, takes an unusual approach to the beauty of the New England autumn. To this author, autumn represents “Summer’s sad decay,” as “Winter, with its cheerless robe, is swiftly coming on.” The imagery is quite moving, especially the scene when the author remembers the passing of his mother as she looked one last time at the beauty of an autumn day. What makes this poem most notable is the way it blends the natural and the spiritual while avoiding any easy affirmation. As “heaven’s eternal light” shines, so too do the “Summer flowers,” but for the speaker all these hopeful visions fade into mere appearances, “only dreams” swept away by autumn winds. This poem’s intensity lies in the power of its emotion: its sincere, raw grief allows the reader to feel a private connection with the speaker, an intimacy often lacking in religious poetry of the time.      

Turkey!  Not all unusual poems are effective. This weepy lament irritates in at least two ways: it ignores the sheer beauty of the season expressed in color, light, and movement and then it misses the significance of the very seasonal changes it deplores. Flowers do, undoubtedly, bloom in the spring and summer and then die in the fall. But, unless the speaker plants only annuals in his garden, when autumn gives way to winter, and winter gives way to another spring, new blooms, as Gilbert and Sullivan observed, will revive that “tra-la-la” feeling. Beyond this, the speaker has an unconvincing habit of quantifying his observations. His mother died on the “brightest” autumn day, not the second or third brightest; the season reminds him, not of a great many, but of no more nor less than “ten thousand” distressing memories. No wonder his pleasant dreams fade: he spends all his time counting his miseries!

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Recitation: Autumn Thoughts

ANONYMOUS, “Autumn Thoughts,” The Boston Literary Magazine, November


Ah! gloomy are the Autumn winds, that whistle night and day— 

The melancholy tones that tell of Summer’s sad decay; 

They rush among the scarlet leaves that deck the mountain side, 

And, envious of their beauty, whirl and drive them far and wide.

Tis sad to see the pleasant fields, that waved so late with corn, 

Now covered with the yellow stalks, unnoticed and forlorn;
‘Tis sad to see the thousand signs that Summer flowers are gone— 

That Winter, with its cheerless robe, is swiftly coming on.

So all the pleasant things of earth awhile look fair and bright, 

And smile with all the promise of the morn’s unclouded light; 

But while our bosoms beat with hope, and hail the glowing day, 

A sudden gloom obscures the sun, and all those joys decay.

Twas on a lovely Autumn day, the brightest in the year—
When winds were moaning on their course, and all the air was clear— 

My mother pressed my hand, and looked a sad, a last farewell, 

And shed a tinge upon my thoughts that time can ne’er dispel.

I often think I feel that hand my trembling grasp return, 

When in my saddest hours I go to weep beside her urn;
And often, in my dreams, she stands, an angel to my sight, 

Glowing in all the nameless charms of Heaven’s eternal light.

And then I sigh, because I know my thoughts are only dreams, 

And all my pleasure is not mine, but mine it only seems;
I wake to weep, when morning comes, in blushing gold arrayed, 

And hasten, in my wo, to seek some yet unscattered shade.

The pleasant sun, that looks so bright upon the fairy earth, 

Where many a flower but lately sprung in beauty into birth, 

Sees all those flowers on earth again withered and blasted laid, 

And me a mourning pilgrim, for my Spring-time hopes are dead. 

Then haste, ye Autumn days, away! ye have no charm for me, 

Ye harrow up ten thousand things of painful memory; 

My bosom cannot bear the weight of wo ye make me feel; 

Oh! if ye stay, I would my breast were hardened into steel!

I cannot bear the thoughts that come upon my feverish brain, 

And, often as I drive them back, return in grief again; 

Oh ! gloomy are the Autumn winds that whistle night and day, 

The melancholy tones that tell how earthly hopes decay!

Boston Literary Magazine, November 1832