Fall is a time for reflection. As the leaves begin to change, we are reminded of the changes in our own lives.
The season has inspired many great writers and poets to do the same. They’ve used fall as inspiration to address the transience of life, as a time to mourn and accept loss, and as an acknowledgment of aging and mortality.
We’ve put together a list of some beautiful poems that highlight the season and sense of change we experience.
To Autumn – John Keats
To Autumn has been referred to as a perfect poem. It’s an ode to autumn that has many interpretations — one of which is a reflection on death and the cycle of life. The poem describes the passing season of fall through a season of bountiful harvest to the waning days of winter.
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 the 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;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
The Wild Swans at Coole – William Butler Yeats
The Wild Swans at Coole is a reflection of our own mortality and aging. Yeats uses the swans as a metaphor for praising something beautiful and lasting in a world filled with change.
The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.
A Time for Everything – Book of Ecclesiastes
It would be hard not to talk about the Book of Ecclesiastes when talking about fall. A Time for Everything is, well, timeless. It’s a perfect description of the cycle of life.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Sonnet 73 – William Shakespeare
The bard himself tackled the theme of mortality through the metaphor of autumn. In Sonnet 73, Shakespeare addresses the themes of aging and equates it to a fire being extinguished.
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
September Midnight – Sara Teasdale
Sara Teasdale’s poem is a melancholy look at coping with change and loss. Using the seasons as a symbol for change, the poem mourns the passing of summer into the darker, quieter fall season.
Let me remember you, voices of little insects,
Weeds in the moonlight, fields that are tangled with asters,
Let me remember, soon will the winter be on us,
Snow-hushed and heavy.
Over my soul murmur your mute benediction,
While I gaze, O fields that rest after harvest,
As those who part look long in the eyes they lean to,
Lest they forget them.