Phillip Ellis

I won’t say that this thought has always struck me as evident, or even possible, but, for a long while, it seems to me that Brennan’s focus on the European seasons in his XXI Poems: Towards the Source and his Poems reflects a focus so intense on the absent beloved that all his terms of reference are to her and her world. This is a complicated way of saying that the lover is thinking solely of the beloved. She is his world, his point of departure, his Eden, and his point of return.

Which makes the following all the more poignant for me at the moment.

Since it is late autumn, as I write, hearing this piece I feel a sense of appropriateness. Though the year is not fading, as in Europe, towards “its death,” that sense of quiescence is still there. So that autumn becomes, for me, a time of reflection on the previous flowering. It is also a time when I ready myself to rest, to lie fallow and let the coming seasons’ artistic growth to germinate and ready itself for efflorescence.

Of course, poets other than Brennan have written about autumn. There are, to me, more familiar pieces…>

and there are others, less familiar…>

What follows are a series of links, with brief comments, about other autumn poems. They are only a small, personal selection, but they do illustrate something of the range of the poetry that has been produced

One of those poems and poets, one who – with Slessor – helped lead me to write poetry was Dowson. His ”Autumnal” is one of the first poems that I read, and one of the poems that prepared me for my later love of Brennan’s verse. It is, like Brennan’s verse, a late Victorian poem, and as such it is easy to read into it motifs and elements common to fin-de-siecle Victorianism.

An earlier Victorian poem, “The Autumn”, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, is less familiar to me. Although I am, really, only familiar with Aurora Leigh, through my university studies, I have dipped into her shorter, lyric poetry on occasion. Her influence has, as a result, been more on my interest in the verse novel as a poetic form, rather than on my other formal verse.


Another autumn poem, one which I know only through translation, is Rilke’s ”Autumn Day”. The site to which that link leads not only has the poem in German but also a selection of translations in English, an echo of the similar tactic in the recent translation issue.

Another translation, one that both appeals to me and shows its age, is Kalidasa’s “Autumn”. I am not at all familiar with the original, so I cannot claim that I know the degree to which the translation echoes the original, yet I find the translation linked to inoffensive and mild, a clear example of the style of translation of its time, and little more.

When Autumn Came”, by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, is one that I am slightly more familiar with. It is a particularly political poem, one that uses images and metaphors to convey the force of the feeling behind its meanings. Like all good political poems, it eschews simplicity, reaching for a multiplicity of meanings beyond just the surface narrative, and this is one of its strengths.

Autumn”, by Jean Starr Untermeyer, is a more contemporary example of an autumn poem. It is, in appearance, a deeply intimate and personal poem, and its candour and simplicity of diction makes it effective as an example of lyric free verse. One of its attractions, for me, is the skill with which it develops its strophes, a skill which I lack, and which I am slowly trying to work on.

Emily Dickinson

The last poem that I shall be linking to is ”Autumn” by Emily Dickinson. Again familiar from my university studies, the poetry of Dickinson has always been one of the influences on my work, although to a less obvious degree than other influences. And the poem is, I feel, a fitting point to cease my rambles, a fitting point to stop acting as a flaneur in the cityscapes of poetry, and to return to some last points.

Of course the decision to speak only of poetry is deliberate. Since poetry is my vocation, I have tried to concentrate on showing some of the literary richness of the seasons through it alone. But there is always more out there to be experienced and savoured. And there are the other seasons, both European and non-European, and these are worthy of their own forms of exploration.

In any case, I leave the floor open for your responses, because it is always interesting to know what you roam among when you think upon autumn.

2 thoughts on “Autumn

  1. I’m fond of ‘Sitting Outside at the End of Autumn’ by Wright – he’s always languid and bleak, he suits autumn so well

  2. Baudelaire has some wonderful autumnal poems too (“Chant d’automne” and “L’Ennemi” among others). Great topic!

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