Poem Review : The Autumn Poems

I cannot wait any more. I dither and dither, delay my decay, but the green must turn golden, and my turn shall come. Before the winter’s chill sets in, I must finish this poetry review.

There is an abundance of poetry in September and October, and I am spoiled for choices. But, finally, I choose four magical poems, and with the poet’s blessings I write. I start my journey from the top to the bottom. As I fly down, floating in the air, I discover why all things that are ripe should turn golden. Because, they are golden.

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.”

[The Autumnal]”― John Donne, The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose

The perspective of seeing autumn as an agent of change or nature preparing for its sleep purely depends on the poet’s perspective. The poets enjoy, evaluate and eviscerate the season of gold. Between the green of the spring and the white of the winter, the gold of the autumn presents a myriad emotions — the emotions of life, nature and everything a human can conceive.

Yes, Autumn is also human. Every element of the season connects with the human mind, heart and soul. The poets understand this, and weave their magic of words around the human element of the fall.

I invite you to explore the four poems:

a) ‘The Parting’, by Priya Patel shares the pain of parting of the autumn leaf from the tree
b)’Autumn Trees’, by George L Thomas explains how the autumn leaves disappear from the face of earth
c) ‘Song of Autumn’ by Chloe Douglas, is a walk about of the wholesome autumn scenery
d) ‘Wrapped in Gold’ by Jacob Berghoef, explains the expensive transaction of the tree and earth, exchanging gold.

There is something more special, Chloe Douglas and Jacob Berghoef are artists, and their artwork appears with their poems. This is again a first for ‘Ponder’.

Celebrate with me, the ‘art of the autumn’…

Poem 1: The Parting

It is the tree that feels the pain of parting
Because the leaf has already passed away
When the two were parted by an autumn breeze
Sudden like an unexpected sneeze
the leaves began to dance and sway
and before the tree could even try
her branches started to tremble and cry
and the leaves began to fall
It is the tree that feels the pain of parting
because the leaf has already passed away

~ Priya Patel

Commentary on Poem 1:

It is the tree that feels the pain of parting
Because the leaf has already passed away
When the two were parted by an autumn breeze
Sudden like an unexpected sneeze

The tree is the parent of the leaf. Yet, it is the child that passes away, while the parent is alive. The agony of a parent bereaving a dead child is the most painful event to experience. The cause of the loss is the gentle ‘autumn breeze’ that blows suddenly, like an ‘unexpected sneeze’. Neither the tree nor the leaf are aware of this sneeze-like-breeze, but the season that has setforth has found another victim.

the leaves began to dance and sway

The leaf, like the quintessential child, is blissful of the autumn breeze. Despite it aging from green to gold, it is a child at heart. It ‘dances and sways’, like it has done all spring and summer, with the autumn breeze.

and before the tree could even try
her branches started to tremble and cry
and the leaves began to fall

The poet brings forth the attempt of the tree to prevent the parting. Her limbs, the branches, shiver in the anticipation of the inevitable, as the ‘leaves begin to fall’.

The personification of the tree as the parent and the leaves are merry children is a metaphor. In this century, as children as nestlings fly away, and more so without being ready or unaware of the masked threats ( read the cool autumn breeze), the parent suffers the pain of parting, while the child dances its way to its doom. With drugs, guns, bad influences, and other unnamed threats, the child is vulnerable as it seeks out joy in this wild, wide world.

“When you loved someone and had to let them go, there will always be that small part of yourself that whispers, “What was it that you wanted and why didn’t you fight for it?”
Shannon L. Alder

The metaphoric approach of planting the poem in the autumn season is a sort of transference to the real world. Did the tree ( parent) really fight enough? Or is it natural that the leaves just wither away and the tree cannot do anything about it? Like the rebellious and blissful teenagers, the leaf went to dance in the autumn breeze ( say parties), only to be blown away from its parent forever.

Poem 2: Autumn Trees

Summer has bid us all farewell
leaving nothing but a spark
Causing the trees to fall fast asleep
As their leaves fall in the park

Their colours span the rainbow
Their scent is musky-sweet
And they rustle and crunch delightfully
Beneath the people’s feet

Slowly they will disappear
Retaken by the earth
Helping to nourish until the spring
When the trees again give birth

George L Thomas

Commentary on Poem 2:

Is autumn also not part of a beautiful cycle?

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”
Lauren DeStefano, Wither

One of my favorite poets George Thomas reminds us that the walk through the autumn cycle is the best thing that can happen in a year and presents us with this beautiful poem.

Summer has bid us all farewell
leaving nothing but a spark
Causing the trees to fall fast asleep
As their leaves fall in the park

The poem starts with the leaving of the summer. Summer was fun. The sun shone bright, and all that sprouted in the spring has grown and glown through summer. But, the time has come, when the sunshine mellows, and the autumn breeze sets in. It is like a lullaby that ‘causes the trees to fall fast asleep’. The trees kick and toss in their sleep, as the leaves fall in the park.

Their colours span the rainbow
Their scent is musky-sweet
And they rustle and crunch delightfully
Beneath the people’s feet

The colors of autumn are so diverse, that they span the rainbow. It is the time that the earth paints its canvas rivaling the magnificence of child of rain and shine, and goes one up — the scent of the leaves are ‘musky-sweet’, for the rainbow lacks aroma, but the colorful leaves that float to the earth do, drenched in the rains. When they are dry, they sound like cookies that crumble in our mouth, except that these are at our feet, giving the same ‘crunchy’ experience beneath our feet. What a lovely way of celebrating autumn, appealing to our senses!

Slowly they will disappear
Retaken by the earth
Helping to nourish until the spring
When the trees again give birth

The fallen leaves, which provided an earthly yet ethereal experience now disappear, like an after party cleanup. The best part of nature is that almost anything is palatable, including the autumn leftovers. The magic of nature is that the nourishment leads to its revival happens beneath the surface, as if the earth stimulates the trees to give birth again.

“Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year.”
Chad Sugg

In a sense, the autumn is the last hurrah of the year, yet it is the beginning of a cycle of rejuvenation far from the human eye. This wonderful journey of nature happens year after year, so that we get to experience its miracle, many times in our lives.

Poem 3: Song for Autumn

‘The view of Glasgow from the park’©️Chloe Douglas. Acrylic painting, using only red, yellow, blue and white gesso.

The path has turned to mud,
While some trees still brightly dressed.
The recent rain perfumes the air,
A million leaves have gone to rest.

The mist is coming down
Filling the woods with secrets.
The enchantment is divine,
While looking back from time to time.

Seldom has the silence been
This tantalising stream
Held in a moment’s arm
Caressing all that’s known.

Taking from the past,
Wandering into the wood,
Gathering up the thyme
And gently making tea.

Slowly as the winter melts
The spirit is revived
And all throughout the colour comes
Lifting it’s sleepy head.

The river’s turning gold
From its silver sheen
The test is yet to come
To see a real green.

Seldom has the silence been
This tantalising stream
Held in a moment’s am
Caressing all that’s known.

©️Chloe Douglas, 6th November 1991.

Commentary on Poem 3:

While Poet George brings out the beauty of autumn in a narrative form, Poet Chloe presents it through a ‘mindfulness’ point of view. I always connect deeply with this perspective, mainly because we see the season of gold through our tinted lens. The emotions that color our views make the season all the more amazing to experience.

The poet brings the perspective through her artwork as well, as the protagonist sits on a bench perched on a high mound in the park as one sees the autumn colors in resplendent display. The protagonist’s legs have walked a mile long, smelt the autumn air, while her mind has churned a myriad thoughts. We need to sit on the bench with the protagonist to feel this poem.

The path has turned to mud,
While some trees still brightly dressed.
The recent rain perfumes the air,
A million leaves have gone to rest.

Autumn is a season of transition. It is the season of letting go, and there are a million little things that change. The path that was baked dry by the summer has ‘turned to mud’. The transition from summer to autumn is captured here beautifully. The slushy experience of our feet is accentuated by the aroma spread by the ‘perfumes’ from the ‘recent rain’. This experience is the mindfulness that I talked about, while there is space for narrative about the season.

As the protagonist scans the panorama, she sees that some trees have left the autumn party, shedding their bright leaves. There are a ‘million leaves that have gone to rest.’ But still ‘some trees are brightly dressed.’ It is like a party in which some party goers have gone home and shed their bright party wear, and others are still partying in their bright colors.

The mist is coming down
Filling the woods with secrets.
The enchantment is divine,
While looking back from time to time.

I go back to Sherlock Holmes’ expedition into the Moors, and the mystery of the mist that sets in the open plains and the woods beyond creates a chill in my mind. The autumn mist is like a white cloak that hides the darkness of the woods, filling it with secrets.

Like how one is attracted to the Sherlock Holmes’ thrillers, the secrets of the misty woods bringforth a respectful and even divine connection that the protagonist wants to explore, as explained by her repeated glances in the direction of the woods.

Seldom has the silence been
This tantalising stream
Held in a moment’s arm
Caressing all that’s known.

The ‘divine enchantment’ is enhanced by the ‘silence’. As the protagonist walks into the woods, attracted by the silent and divine mysticism of the mist covered woods, she discovers a stream. Somewhere, her mind flows into her past, as if there is something close — so close, that she holds it in her hands for a moment, and caresses it. The past is like the mist filled woods, and the present is like the flowing stream.

We are left wondering how the poet must feel, just caressing what is close, yet cannot see. This is a metaphoric surrealism, where one can visualize the mist covered woods, but cannot see but feel it, but it is also a peep into the poet’s mind which is searching for something in her past.

This surrealism now stays through the poem as we travel along with the poet towards her past (the woods) and stepping into the present.

Taking from the past,
Wandering into the wood,
Gathering up the thyme
And gently making tea.

As she ‘wanders into the wood’, slowly figuring out the landscape, her mind searches into the past, taking us along with her. Somewhere, she finds her ‘peace’, for she ‘gathers up the thyme ( the ingredient herb)’ for the tea.

The seasonal landscape transposes with the poet’s mindscape extending the metaphoric surrealism.

Slowly as the winter melts
The spirit is revived
And all throughout the colour comes
Lifting it’s sleepy head.

The spring dawns. What was dormant and docile in the depths of the white winter, which had started with the chill of the autumn mist, now ‘lifts its sleepy head’. The discovery of peace symbolized by the warmth of the tea leads to the revival of the poet’s spirits.

The revival of spirit, showing the return of colors and reflecting the thawing of winter (the peaceful tea being the catalyst) brings a spring in the poet’s step.

The river’s turning gold
From its silver sheen
The test is yet to come
To see a real green.

The river in winter ( reflected by its silver sheen) is now flowing freely, reflecting the golden sunshine of spring. As the poet’s spirit is revived, her frozen mind ( the silver sheen) opens up to the flow of thoughts that could mean much to her (the metaphoric gold).

We might note that the poet decelerates and shares her words of caution att this point. While there is the welcome change of spring, the test is yet to come. For, the real green is to be seen. For a moment, we feel that the poet would break out of the surrealism that has built hope in her mind, like the passing of seasons from autumn to spring through winter, but with this twist, we are unsure if it worked.

This dichotomy in the poet’s mind is visible when the following verses are repeated. It could be back to where it all started.

Seldom has the silence been
This tantalising stream
Held in a moment’s arm
Caressing all that’s known.

In a sense, we see a transposition of the change of seasons in the physical world with the poet’s quest for peace and answers leading to the revival of her life, but there is a little hint that her mind would be warped in the world of the woods surrounded by the autumn mist.

Poem 4: Wrapped In Gold

Wrapped in Gold, Jacob Berghoef © 2022 ( Artwork about beautiful old forest ‘Dover plantage’ near the city of Hurup Thy, North Jutland, Denmark)

Alone, listening
to the fading day
The trees
give their yellow leaves
back to the earth
They know what I need:
silence
wrapped in gold

Commentary on Poem 4:

The earth is silent. It is where everything starts and ends. From ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ goes the saying. Silence is like patience. It is not about the state of quietness, but the attitude shown during the state. Patience is the willingness to wait, while silence is quietness riding on patience. The earth is silent and patient.

Sound, like heat is an energy that forms during transformation — more of the kinetic form, while silence is more of the potential form. Silence withholds the energy within, and therefore, becomes a reservoir of strength. It is important to understand this difference, because the poet brings us a deep understanding of the difference between sound and silence.

If we combine both the dimensions of the understanding — the ability to be quiet and patient — being silent, and the act of silence is to build the reservoir of energy. If we combine this with the knowledge of what happens above the earth, then the wisdom of this poem hits us with astounding clarity.

They know what I need:
silence
wrapped in gold

So let me explain the third piece — the change of seasons. Spring is when life begins and flourishes. Winter is when things go dormant, engulfed in cold weather and snow. Spring is the beginning, winter is the end. Spring sprouts from the earth, and winter covers the earth in its white sheet, giving rest to all earthlings. Autumn is the path to winter, and the twilight of a leaf’s life.

The leaf is the most symbolic of the seasons. From the spring green to the autumn yellow, their journey is that of life. And in winter, they disappear.

The poet brings the journey of the leaf to an end as they fall on the ‘silent’ earth. In his desire for silence wrapped in gold, the poet resonates with earth. The earth knows what is ahead, and the trees play their part. The yellow leaves ruffle and rustle, making the last noises of their lives, before the autumn breeze blows them away.

The trees
give their yellow leaves
back to the earth

The trees let go of the leaves, as if they understand the poet’s ( and the earth’s) want for silence, so that it can prepare for the forthcoming winter.

Alone, listening
to the fading day

The trees are now alone without their noisy and vibrant leaves, stand in the fading light of an autumn evening.

The poem is part of an excellently choreographed ballet practiced and performed in silence, except for the last glitter and flutter of the yellow leaves, as they descend from the tree to the earth.

A straightforward act of the autumn season opens our mind to the layers of meaning between the poet, the trees, and the earth — a symbiotic relationship that repeats year after year.

This poem is a rare connect of autumn to earth, bringing the desire for silence and connecting it with the season of gold.

The art of the autumn:

The dimensions that the four poems have explored : emotional, natural, surreal and earthly elements of autumn, the season of gold.

“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love — that makes life and nature harmonise. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”

[Letter to Miss Lewis, Oct. 1, 1841]”
George Eliot, George Eliot’s Life, as Related in Her Letters and Journals

Autumn is magic. Autumn is miracle. Autumn is transition of life and beginning of the end, or rejuvenation.

As I walk in the park near my house in Chennai, I suffer a tropical climate where autumn is a pipedream. I have seen autumns during my travels to North America and Europe. But my travels don’t happen always.

But with such good autumn poetry, I can visualize and savor the beauty of the golden season. I am obliged to thank the poets for allowing me to share my thoughts on their poems and through them, breathe the autumn air from far away in a tropical city.

~Ashok Subramanian

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Ashok Subramanian

A poetic mind. Imagines characters, plots. Loves Philosophy, Literature and Science. Poetry-Short Stories-Novels- Poetry Reviews-Book Reviews