As I have noted before, "wistful" and "bittersweet" are the feelings that I associate with autumn. But autumn never makes me feel down in the dumps. Yes, there is that ever-present background whisper that sounds something like "mortality." But, with beauty predominating, why pay it any mind?
In the following poem by Robert Frost, autumn's leaves take on a more threatening aspect. The whisper is more insistent: "an invitation to grief." But, as is so often the case with Frost, a suspicion arises that he is pulling our leg. Or is he?
A Leaf Treader
I have been treading on leaves all day until I am autumn-tired.
God knows all the color and form of leaves I have trodden on and mired.
Perhaps I have put forth too much strength and been too fierce from fear.
I have safely trodden underfoot the leaves of another year.
All summer long they were overhead, more lifted up than I.
To come to their final place in earth they had to pass me by.
All summer long I thought I heard them threatening under their breath.
And when they came it seemed with a will to carry me with them to death.
They spoke to the fugitive in my heart as if it were leaf to leaf.
They tapped at my eyelids and touched my lips with an invitation to grief.
But it was no reason I had to go because they had to go.
Now up my knee to keep on top of another year of snow.
Robert Frost, A Further Range (1936).
A nice companion piece to "A Leaf Treader" is Frost's "In Hardwood Groves," which I have posted previously. The poem regards autumn with more equanimity. Here is its second stanza:
Before the leaves can mount again
To fill the trees with another shade,
They must go down past things coming up.
They must go down into the dark decayed.
Robert Frost, Collected Poems (1930).