Autumnal Poetry with Anne


It was a very fine November day …

And the Misses Musgrove were determined upon a walk.

No longer having a car since moving to Switzerland, I do a great deal of walking these days. The weather here, for the past week or so, has been wonderfully accommodating. Highs about 60, mostly clear skies, lows in the mid-40s. I have my windows and doors open most days, and when we walk outside leaves crunch gratifyingly beneath the boots of my daughter and myself. It is a time for inspiration in nature, which brings me back to Persuasion:

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 had drawn from every poet, worthy of being read, some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.

It seems to be a compulsion of mine each year to try and find the poetry Anne Elliot might have been conjuring in her mind as she tromped silently along behind the Musgroves and Captain Wentworth. In honor of the season, here are a few possibilities. These, admittedly, are not the most uplifting lines, but as Anne was far from happy during the scene in question I feel they fit well. Enjoy!


Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare

Watercolor by C.E. Brock courtesy of
Watercolor by C.E. Brock courtesy of

That time of year thou may’st 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.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.


Elegy IX: The Autumnal by John Donne

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
         As I have seen in one autumnal face.
Young beauties force our love, and that’s a rape,
         This doth but counsel, yet you cannot scape.
If ’twere a shame to love, here ’twere no shame;
         Affection here takes reverence’s name.
Were her first years the golden age? That’s true,
         But now she’s gold oft tried and ever new.
That was her torrid and inflaming time,
         This is her tolerable tropic clime.
Fair eyes, who asks more heat than comes from hence,
         He in a fever wishes pestilence.
Call not these wrinkles, graves; if graves they were,
         They were Love’s graves, for else he is no where.
Yet lies not Love dead here, but here doth sit
         Vow’d to this trench, like an anachorit;
And here till hers, which must be his death, come,
         He doth not dig a grave, but build a tomb.
Here dwells he; though he sojourn ev’rywhere
         In progress, yet his standing house is here:
Here where still evening is, not noon nor night,
         Where no voluptuousness, yet all delight.

In all her words, unto all hearers fit,

1971 BBC adaptation of Persuasion
1971 BBC adaptation of Persuasion
         You may at revels, you at council, sit.
This is Love’s timber, youth his underwood;
         There he, as wine in June, enrages blood,
Which then comes seasonabliest when our taste
         And appetite to other things is past.
Xerxes’ strange Lydian love, the platan tree,
         Was lov’d for age, none being so large as she,
Or else because, being young, nature did bless
         Her youth with age’s glory, barrenness.
If we love things long sought, age is a thing
         Which we are fifty years in compassing;
If transitory things, which soon decay,
         Age must be loveliest at the latest day.
But name not winter faces, whose skin’s slack,
         Lank as an unthrift’s purse, but a soul’s sack;
Whose eyes seek light within, for all here’s shade;
         Whose mouths are holes, rather worn out than made;
Whose every tooth to a several place is gone,
         To vex their souls at resurrection:
Name not these living death’s-heads unto me,
         For these, not ancient, but antique be.
I hate extremes, yet I had rather stay
         With tombs than cradles, to wear out a day.
Since such love’s natural lation is, may still
         My love descend, and journey down the hill,
Not panting after growing beauties. So,
         I shall ebb on with them who homeward go.
BBC 1971 adaptation of Persuasion
BBC 1971 adaptation of Persuasion


To Autumn by William Blake

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stainèd
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.
`The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

`The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.’
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.


My last offering would not be known to Austen, let alone Anne, but I have little doubt both would approve. A lovely November to you all!


Spring and Fall: to a young child by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás 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 wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

6 Responses to Autumnal Poetry with Anne

  1. The walk to Winthrop is sad until the end and “his hands did it!” I wonder how Anne would have viewed fall if they had had Daylight Savings Time to contend with.

    Lovely poetry.

  2. Thanks Alex, One of my favorite Autumn songs would be the poem by Irish poet and actor, Thomas Moore, “The Last Rose of Summer.” Of course set to music. It was well known during Austen’s time and later used in an opera setting by Friedrich von Flotow. Enjoy your Autumn days. jen

  3. Alexa, Thank you for this lovely celebration of autumn. I could wrap myself up in it. Like most folks, it is my favorite season. The poems are beautiful and the photos just lovely. I shall share with my readers…right now!

Your thoughts are precious!