It’s Thoughtful Thursday, time to turn away from all the worries of the world and let a bit of poetry soothe the soul. As the first full week of November comes to an end, and the trees here in Central Park are putting on a colorful autumnal display, let’s celebrate the fall season with a couple of poems. First we have “Merry Autumn” by the great Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), in which he encourages us to view the fall season as a joyfully colorful display rather than a reminder of winter’s approach. We finish with “November for Beginners”, in which Pulitzer Prize winner (and former U.S. Poet Laureate) Rita Dove (b.1952) takes a decidedly less enthusiastic view of the season. Share with your children and ask which view better suits them! Enjoy.
It’s all a farce,—these tales they tell
About the breezes sighing,
And moans astir o’er field and dell,
Because the year is dying.
Such principles are most absurd,—
I care not who first taught ’em;
There’s nothing known to beast or bird
To make a solemn autumn.
In solemn times, when grief holds sway
With countenance distressing,
You’ll note the more of black and gray
Will then be used in dressing.
Now purple tints are all around;
The sky is blue and mellow;
And e’en the grasses turn the ground
From modest green to yellow.
The seed burrs all with laughter crack
On featherweed and jimson;
And leaves that should be dressed in black
Are all decked out in crimson.
A butterfly goes winging by;
A singing bird comes after;
And Nature, all from earth to sky,
Is bubbling o’er with laughter.
The ripples wimple on the rills,
Like sparkling little lasses;
The sunlight runs along the hills,
And laughs among the grasses.
The earth is just so full of fun
It really can’t contain it;
And streams of mirth so freely run
The heavens seem to rain it.
Don’t talk to me of solemn days
In autumn’s time of splendor,
Because the sun shows fewer rays,
And these grow slant and slender.
Why, it’s the climax of the year,—
The highest time of living!—
Till naturally its bursting cheer
Just melts into thanksgiving.
Paul Laurence Dunbar
November for Beginners
Snow would be the easy
way out—that softening
sky like a sigh of relief
at finally being allowed
to yield. No dice.
We stack twigs for burning
in glistening patches
but the rain won’t give.
So we wait, breeding
mood, making music
of decline. We sit down
in the smell of the past
and rise in a light
that is already leaving.
We ache in secret,
a gloomy line
or two of German.
When spring comes
we promise to act
the fool. Pour,
rain! Sail, wind,
with your cargo of zithers!