Spring and Fall


Summer hardly arrived, it seems, and now it’s September, and the first signs of autumn are showing themselves at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Md., and elsewhere in the Washington area.

The obvious (British) poem for this season is “Ode to Autumn” by John Keats, but I like this one by the 19th century poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. It’s by no means one of his best, but I like it because the child to whom it is addressed bears my mother’s name and my middle name, making all the more poignant the fact that with each autumn, I am increasingly aware of the passing of time, and it is [Passante] I mourn for just a little:

Spring and Fall, to a Young Child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.


4 Responses to Spring and Fall

  1. John says:

    Yes, beautiful autumn colours, you can’t beat them!

  2. freckled-one says:

    That is a wonderful poem. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Dr. A says:

    I haven’t heard that one, thanks for sharing it.
    Hope you don’t mind me sharing this one:-

    I saw old Autumn in the misty morn
    Stand shadowless like silence, listening
    To silence.

    – Thomas Hood, Ode: Autumn, 1827

    Now why do you suppose they are both a bit bleak?

  4. passante says:

    Dr. A —

    I think they sound bleak because autumn precedes winter and to poets, that is often a symbol for impending old age and death.

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