As I walked on, five Canadian geese suddenly flew overhead from behind me, honking, going about their business. The very sound of autumn.
George Vicat Cole, "Harvest Time" (1860)
As I have noted before, Howard Nemerov is a wonderful poet of autumn -- and of late summer, and the arc into autumn, as well.
Day after day, day after still day,
The summer has begun to pass away.
Starlings at twilight fly clustered and call,
And branches bend, and leaves begin to fall.
The meadow and the orchard grass are mown,
And the meadowlark's house is cut down.
The little lantern bugs have doused their fires,
The swallows sit in rows along the wires.
Berry and grape appear among the flowers
Tangled against the wall in secret bowers,
And cricket now begins to hum the hours
Remaining to the passion's slow procession
Down from the high place and the golden session
Wherein the sun was sacrificed for us.
A failing light, no longer numinous,
Now frames the long and solemn afternoons
Where butterflies regret their closed cocoons.
We reach the place unripe, and made to know
As with a sudden knowledge that we go
Away forever, all hope of return
Cut off, hearing the crackle of the burn-
ing blade behind us, and the terminal sound
Of apples dropping on the dry ground.
Howard Nemerov, The Blue Swallows (1967).
This is a lovely poem, but I would respectfully disagree with these lines: "A failing light, no longer numinous,/Now frames the long and solemn afternoons." My friendly objection is to this: "no longer numinous." The OED defines "numinous" as follows: "Giving rise to a sense of the spiritually transcendent; (esp. of things in art or the natural world) evoking a heightened sense of the mystical or sublime; awe-inspiring." In my humble opinion, the slanting yellow light of late summer and early autumn is as numinous (and evocative) as light, and the World, get.
George Vicat Cole, "A Surrey Cornfield" (1864)
Here, Nemerov captures the essence of this time of year in four lines, providing further confirmation that less is often more.
When in still air and still in summertime
A leaf has had enough of this, it seems
To make up its mind to go; fine as a sage
Its drifting in detachment down the road.
Howard Nemerov, Gnomes & Occasions (1973).
The emotions evoked by the first falling leaf of incipient autumn transcend time and place. This was written in Japan nearly three centuries before Nemerov's poem:
The leaf of the paulownia,
With not a breath of wind,
Boncho (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 4: Autumn-Winter (Hokuseido 1952), page 130.
George Vicat Cole, "Harvesting in the Thames Valley" (1888)