Shakespeare and Autumn

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 Shakespeare on Fall“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….

(SON 73)

Autumn, the bright solemn fading of the year – a metaphor for old age… and a reminder that “All that lives, must die, passing through nature to eternity” (Hamlet).
Yet, who has not spared a moment or spent a thought, wondering why the beauty of Autumn should be so connected and linked to the mystical End. There will be other leaves next Spring but not the ones that died and will be no more…

The season has awakened the creative spirit in poets and writers. Here are a few among many.

Jane Austen,
“Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn–that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness–that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.”

George Eliot,
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”

John Donne
“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.”

and Boris Pasternak,
The autumn had already clearly marked the frontiers between the coniferous and the deciduous trees. Between the gloomy, bristling walls of almost black pines the leafy thickets shone flame- and wine colored like medieval towns with painted and gold roofed palaces built of the timber cut down in the thickness of the forest.

Greedily he breathed in the mixed peppery smell of frostbitten apples, bitter dry wigs, sweetish damp earth, and the blue September mist that smoked like the fumes of a recently extinguished fire

The room…was filled with the creamy light of the golden autumn days…when the mornings begin to be frosty

Such was now the light… the light of an autumn sunset, as succulent, glassy, juicy as a certain variety of Russian apples.

…On such days the sky is incredibly high, and through the transparent pillar of air between it and the earth there moves an icy, dark-blue radiance coming from the north.

…The horizons open as if to show the whole of life for years ahead.

…They flew away from the trees, gliding through the air, and covered the hospital lawn, looking like bent orange stars

On the more mundane side, Shakespeare’s lines on the subject are an appropriate answer  when you are or are feeling old and someone asks you about your age or your feelings.

In the Sonnet.  Autumn as a metaphor for old age

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