The irony of my annual attempt to hurry along the advent of autumn is not lost on me: each season has its own beauty, but autumn's is the most evanescent. I hurry autumn's beauty along only to watch it vanish. I suppose there is a lesson in this. Ah, yes, of course: "first known when lost."
When I was young, not knowing the taste of grief,
I loved to climb the storied tower,
loved to climb the storied tower,
and in my new songs I'd make it a point to speak of grief.
But now I know all about the taste of grief.
About to speak of it, I stop;
about to speak of it, I stop
and say instead, "Days so cool -- what a lovely autumn!"
Hsin Ch'i-chi (1140-1207) (translated by Burton Watson), in Burton Watson, The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century (Columbia University Press 1984), page 371. The poem is untitled.
George Vicat Cole (1833-1893), "Harvest Time" (1860)
A few days ago, while out on my afternoon walk, I looked to the west at a row of tall pine trees at the far side of a meadow, near the bluffs above the waters of Puget Sound. The pines -- swaying silently in the distance -- were set against a deep blue and purple, steel-grey wall of approaching dark storm clouds. The scene seemed to betoken all that is to come.
"This is the beginning of the pageant of autumn, of that gradual pompous dying which has no parallel in human life yet draws us to it with sure bonds. It is a dying of the flesh, and we see it pass through a kind of beauty which we can only call spiritual, of so high and inaccessible a strangeness is it. The sight of such perfection as is many times achieved before the end awakens the never more than lightly sleeping human desire of permanence. Now, now is the hour; let things be thus; thus for ever; there is nothing further to be thought of; let these remain. And yet we have a premonition that remain they must not for more than a little while."
Edward Thomas, The South Country (J. M. Dent 1909), page 272.
George Vicat Cole, "Iffley Mill" (1884)
We have seen this passing and vanishing before. But we never tire of it. Or we ought not to. If we ever do, our life may as well be over. This is the World we were made for.
Sitting at Night on the Moonlit Terrace
Fall days are not entirely free of heat,
but fall nights are clear right through to dawn.
So the old man for several evenings running
has been sitting outdoors until the third watch.
The wind blusters, stars bright one moment, gone the next;
clouds scud by, the moon greeting them, sending them off.
You chase after delights, chase in vain,
then when you think there're no delights, suddenly they come!
Yang Wan-li (1127-1206) (translated by Burton Watson), in Burton Watson, The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century, page 349.
George Vicat Cole, "Autumn Morning" (1891)