"Autumnal" by Oliver Wendell Holmes first appeared in The Atlantic in December, 1868:
Can this be sadness? this forebode decay?
Are these the vestments of funereal woe?
Sure, hues that pale like these the dawning’s glow
The rather deck some dryad’s festal day!
Hail, radiant hour! thrice welcome, gladsome ray,
That kindling through these boughs, with golden flow,
Streams joy and summer to the shades below!
And thou, brown-dappled Oak, and Maple gay,
In rippling waves of many-tinted flame,
Lithe Birch gold-hued, thin Ash, whose dyes might shame,
The trodden vintage reeking on the lees,
And ivied Beech with sanguine cinctures fair: --
As in the long days past, fraternal trees,
With you, whate’er your gladness, let me share!
O’er banks of mossy mould how lightly strewn
All the wan summer lies! The heedless tread
Awakes no sound; and, had not pale leaves fled,
As soft it came, the low wind were not known.
How strange the sharp and long-drawn shadows thrown
From lank and shrivelled branches overhead
While from their withered glories, spoiler-shed,
The earthy autumn-scents are faintly blown!
Ah! reft and ravaged bowers, the garish day
Flaunts through the hidings of your dewy glooms!
And thou, in leafy twilights wont to be,
Shy maid, sweet-thoughted Sadness, come away,
And here beneath this hemlock’s drooping plumes
With pensive retrospection muse with me.
Why holds o’er all my heart this dreamy hour
A sway that spring or summer never knew?
Why seems this ragged gentian, wanly blue,
Of all the circling year the fairest flower?
Whence has each wandering leaf this mystic power
That all my secret being trembles through, --
Or sounds the blackbird’s note more human-true
Than all the songs of June from greenwood bower?
Deep meanings haunt the groves and sunny glades,
Strange broods along the hazy slopes,
A brave but tender awe my breast pervades,
That hints of shadowy doubt, yet is not fear;
While musing quiet stirs with drowsy hopes,
And Nature’s loving heart seems doubly near.
(Image by Flickr user: EssjayNZ)
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