The Poetics of Late Summer

Although it is hotter right now in Southern California than it has been all summer, there are definitely signs that summer is ending and autumn is at hand. The sun is setting earlier, the fire season has begun, and three-ring-binders are 2 for $3 at Wal-Mart.

I’ve always loved this time of year. Late summer. For whatever reason, it is just incredibly poetic. The end of “vacation” season, an acute sense of both loss and hope, the onset of such wonderful things as Football season and apple picking. It’s a great moment of transition, and some far more perceptive writers than I have captured it beautifully in verse. Here are a few of my favorites:

“September” by Herman Hesse

The Garden mourns,
The rains coolly sink into the flowers.
The Summer shivers
Calmly against its end.

Golden falls leaf upon leaf
Down from the high acacia tree.
Summer smiles astonished and weary
In the dying garden dream.

It lingers yet by the roses
Remains standing, longs for rest.
Slowly it closes its large
Weary-grown eyes.

“Late Summer” by C.S. Lewis

I, dusty and bedraggled as I am,
Pestered with wasps and weed and making jam,
Blowzy and stale, my welcome long outstayed,
Proved false in every promise that I made,
At my beginning I believed, like you,
Something would come of all my green and blue.
Mortals remember, looking on the thing
I am, that I, even I, was once a spring.

“Autumn Day” by Rilke

Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Lay your shadow on the sundials
and let loose the wind in the fields.

Bid the last fruits to be full;
give them another two more southerly days,
press them to ripeness, and chase
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now will not build one
anymore.
Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long
time,
will stay up, read, write long letters,
and wander the avenues, up and down,
restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.

“September” by John Updike

The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Chrysanthemums.
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.

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4 responses to “The Poetics of Late Summer

  1. That was awesome. Thanks.

  2. Oh…thanks for the poetry…reminds me how much I look forward to fall in Kansas!

  3. I know I can always count on hearing Rilke from you around this time of year. Adore that poem.

  4. Pingback: on refuge | framed

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