Autumn and Literature

Autumn holds a special place in literature with its fascinating artwork of golden-hued trees, glistening natural beauty, crispy leaves and ephemeral grandeur which has fired up the imagination of poets and writers through generations. As the resplendent season sets in, the inspiring poetry of writers surpasses the ravages of time due to their eloquence and mellifluousness. It has been beautifully dealt with, in literature as Albert Camus wrote: ‘autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower’.

No doubt, other seasons are equally significant, yet, the charm and bliss of ‘the season of fall’, is mesmerizing time of the year to be aestheticized and appreciated. Its bewitching beauty and serenity, has intrigued poets across time, countries and culture; all of whom have envisioned it as a passing phase in Nature’s continuous process of decay and renewal to create the ambience of ascetic spirit that is represented through poetry. The poets’ season of bare boughs, fading flowers, withered crispy leaves, etc. is envisaged as an abstract and pristine feminine beauty, which appears through the fleeting shadows of cirrus clouds that resemble the fluttering of her dewy veil, in the golden sunbeams leaving a message that everything that blooms has to fade away one day.

   

Among the late 18th century English Romantic poets, John Keats and William Blake, autumn is represented as a celebration of plenty, a harbinger of winter and encapsulates the theme of poverty and a mystic melancholia. Keats, in his poem, ‘Ode to Autumn’ (written in 1819) describes autumn as: Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun…In the third stanza of the poem, he writes:

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay,
Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast they music too,-
Referring to the joys, colors and emotions of autumn in his pastoral and evocative poem ‘To Autumn’, the visionary English writer William Blake, in the same context, says:
O! Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grapes, pass not, but sir
Beneath my shady roof; there thou mayst rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe…
William Shakespeare, who is widely regarded as the greatest dramatist in the English literature, presents the season’s ascetic spirit and intriguing beauty in one of his poems as:
The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,
And on old Hiems’ thin and icy crown
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set.

In the West, autumn is identified as ‘fall’- the connotative of maturity and end, as appears in P.B.Shelly’s poem, Autumn: A Dirge and Thomas Hood’s ode on Autumn. Hood visualizes autumn, as an aged male figure whose ‘coronet of golden corn’ conveys the archetypal image of the season and yet, who is ‘shaking the languid licks all dewy bright/ with tangled gossamer that fell by night’. Towards the end of his ‘Ode to the West Wind’, Shelly too like Keats, views autumn as a part of Nature’s unending process of change because he represents the West Wind, not only as winter (symbolizes death) harbinger, but also, a dynamic cleansing force pointing at a renewal, just as his concluding remark affirms: The trumpet of a prophecy! O, Wind / If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
While praising the enchanting beauty of autumn in his gazal, “Jab Bahar Ayee” , the most celebrated and influential Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, says:
This is the way that autumn came to the trees:
it stripped them down to the skin,
left their ebony bodies naked.
It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves,
scattered them over the ground…

However, Azeen Hyder and Ahmad Faraz, has described autumn in their poetry quite beautifully, but distinctly. According to Azeen Hyder, like autumn season when trees shed their leaves, he feels his existence scattered. He writes: Mausam-e- Khizan Ke Patton Ki Tarah Jhar Gaya/ Mera Wajood Tere Tan Se Juda Hoker Bekher Gaya. Ahmad Faraz, in the same vein, writes: Jab Khizan Ayegi To Lout Ayegay Who Bhi / Wo Baharon Main Zara Kam He Nikla Karte Hai.

Besides number of English and Urdu poets, autumn’s splendor has also inspired Indian writers as well (can’t cite all). In many of Rabindranath Tagore’s poems and songs, the season is manifested through the abundance of ripe crops in the fields that is ‘the golden gift of autumn for mother earth’. The festive spirit of autumn initiates a holiday mood in human mind, an expression of that has been recorded in one of his seasonal poems in the poetic drama Nataraj, where Tagore writes:
Autumn gives a home-leaving call in a holidaying note-
He flutters the wings of swan and makes it fly afar;

As the shuili-buds bloom on its stem, he calls it back…
Known in Kashmir as ‘harud’, the breathtaking season arrives with the magnificent golden glow and crimson leaf fall, thereby, enveloping the entire region with misty mornings, warm and sunny days but evenings have a cool nip, the reminder of coming winter. Here, the lovely Chinar trees wear a majestic look to adorn the whole set-up look so spectacular. Not only does autumn serve as a stimulus to many poets here, but it also demonstrates an outstanding ingenuity to attracts visitors in the picturesque environs of Chinar trees in Srinagar’s Naseem Bagh, Nishat & Shalimar Gardens, etc. and elsewhere. The Kashmiri born

American poet, Agha Shahid Ali, who desired to die in Kashmir, in autumn, couldn’t restrain himself to say:
I will die, in autumn, in Kashmir, and
The shadowed routine of each vein will almost be news,
The blood censored, for the saffron sun and the times of rain…

The writer is a teacher, and a regular contributor

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