November, the bringer of barren trees and wintry winds. For some reason the stark change of seasons in spring and fall tends to drive me back to poetry. So here are three poems that reflect the melancholic character of this penultimate month.
November Night by Adelaide Crapsey
This poem typifies Crapsey’s themes (influenced by the terminal illness that killed her at age 36) and her form (she invented the cinquain, five unrhymed lines following a strict syllabic structure):
Listen . . .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
November by Walter de la Mare
A British bookkeeper turned poet, novelist and essayist, de la Mare is especially known for his children’s literature (which, in every era, has had a strong focus on mortality). This work exemplifies his romantic vision:
THERE is wind where the rose was,
Cold rain where sweet grass was,
And clouds like sheep
Stream o’er the steep
Grey skies where the lark was.
Nought warm where your hand was,
Nought gold where your hair was,
But phantom, forlorn,
Beneath the thorn,
Your ghost where your face was.
Cold wind where your voice was,
Tears, tears where my heart was,
And ever with me,
Child, ever with me,
Silence where hope was.
My November Guest by Robert Frost
The poet who at this time of year always feels most kindred to me is Frost, the gentleman farmer and orchardist. (I’m sure the felt connection is because I grew up on an apple farm and spent my share of days working in the cold rain.) These simple lines bring it all back:
My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.