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Poetry for Autumn


It is small advantage for eyes to see
If the heart is blind.
The great world brims over with his glory,
yet he may only dwell
where a person chooses to give him entrance.

Abbot Nicholas



Fragile, notice that
As autumn starts, a light
Frost crisps up at night
And next day, for a while,
White covers path and lawn.
'Autumn is here, it is,' Sings the stoical blackbird
But by noon pure gold is tossed
On everything. Leaves fall
As if they meant to rise.
Nothing of nature's lost,
The birth, the blight of things,
The bud, the stretching wings.

Elizabeth Jennings, Collected Poems, Carcanet 1986



To-day I think
Only with scents,-scents dead leaves yield,
And bracken, and wild carrot's seed,
And the square mustard field;

Odours that rise
When the spade wounds the root of tree,
Rose, currant, raspberry, or goutweed,
Rhubarb or celery;

The smoke's smell, too,
Flowing from where a bonfire burns
The dead, the waste, the dangerous,
And all to sweetness turns.

It is enough
To smell, to crumble the dark earth,
While the robin sings over again
Sad songs of Autumn mirth.

Edward Thomas


What’s Left

(for Peter Hennessy)

I used to wait for the flowers,
my pleasure reposed on them.
Now I like plants before they get to the blossom.
Leafy ones - foxgloves, comfrev, delphiniurns -
fleshy tiers of strong leases pushing up
into air grown daily lighter and more sheened
with bright dust like the eyeshadow
that tall young woman in the bookshop wears,
its shimmer and crumble on her white lids.

The washing sways on the line, the sparrows pull
at the heaps of drying weeds that I’ve left around.
Perhaps this is middle age. Untidy, unfinished,
knowing there’ll never be time now to finish,
liking the plants - their strong lives -
not caring about flowers, sitting in weeds
to write things down, look at things,
watching the sway of shirts on the line,
the cloth filtering light.

I know more or less
how to live through my life now.
But I want to know how to live what’s left
with my eyes open and my hands open;
I want to stand at the door in the rain
listening, sniffing, gaping.
Fearful and joyous,
like an idiot before God.

Kerry Hardie in 'Being Alive', ed Neil Astley, Bloodaxe Books 2004


Sometimes the landscape of my soul
seems like this burnt hillside,
the wind rattling orange leaves on black twigs,
the soil full of ash between the stones.
Sometimes the landscape of my soul
seems like this terrible waste of dead trees.

Walking this afternoon among the charred remains

I found a black stump sprouting leaves
and new grass thinly veiling
a delicate oak sapling
in this, the ravaged landscape of my soul.

Susan Fisher, quoted by John Moses, The Desert, Paternoster Press 1997



Why is it that we want things sewn up
Neatly stacked in tied bundles
Waiting for the lighting of the autumn fire
Crisp leaves, sun dried grass cuttings, branches still bendy
Curled petal remains of dead roses

When really disorder is life
Unfinished, roughedged, and incomplete
And the bundles just metaphors
Lying waiting in piles
for children to scuff through the leaves
And, scattering, invent new thoughts?

Alison Morgan


To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run,
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells...

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, wlule thy hook
Spares tile next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a glcaner thou dost keep S
teady thy laden head across a brook; Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch tile stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies:
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Fledge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

John Keats