“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
by William Cullen Bryant (1794 – 1878)
Ay, thou art welcome, heaven’s delicious breath! When woods begin to wear the crimson leaf, And suns grow meek, and the meek suns grow brief And the year smiles as it draws near its death. Wind of the sunny south! oh, still delay In the gay woods and in the golden air, Like to a good old age released from care, Journeying, in long serenity, away. In such a bright, late quiet, would that I Might wear out life like thee, ‘mid bowers and brooks
And dearer yet, the sunshine of kind looks, And music of kind voices ever nigh; And when my last sand twinkled in the glass, Pass silently from men, as thou dost pass
by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894)
In the other gardens And all up in the vale, From the autumn bonfires See the smoke trail!
Pleasant summer over, And all the summer flowers, The red fire blazes, The grey smoke towers.
Sing a song of seasons! Something bright in all! Flowers in the summer, Fires in the fall!
“Come, little leaves,” said the wind one day. “Come o’er the meadows with me, and play’ Put on your dress of red and gold,— Summer is gone, and the days grow cold.”
Soon as the leaves heard the wind’s loud call, Down they came fluttering, one and all; Over the brown fields they danced and flew, Singing the soft little songs they knew.
“Cricket, good-by, we’ve been friends so long; Little brook, sing us your farewell song,— Say you are sorry to see us go; Ah! you will miss us, right well we know.”
“Dear little lambs, in your fleecy fold, Mother will keep you from harm and cold; Fondly we’ve watched you in vale and glade; Say, will you dream of our loving shade?”
Dancing and whirling, the little leaves went; Winter had called them, and they were content. Soon fast asleep in their earthy beds, The snow laid a coverlet over their heads.
We have had a very summer like fall so far, but that’s about to change. A little nip in the air makes me feel playful and I am looking forward to temperatures dropping. I find the process of raking leaves relaxing. No leaf blowers allowed at my house, I like the quiet rustle of leaves and honestly find a big rake with a tarp faster and more efficient for cleaning up. Gone are the days when I would look forward to jumping into the leaf pile in the compost bin once the chore of raking was complete, but I remember fondly jumping off the ladder into the mammoth leaf pile that the oak trees in our yard as a kid would create.
Today’s poems are both from the 19th century, and written for as children’s poems. Cooper was known more for his song lyrics, but also published a wide range of poetry in his lifetime. Many of his song lyrics were set to music by Stephen Foster, one of the most influential song writers of his generation. Here’s an example of one of their less serious collaborations.
How the Leaves Came Down
by Susan Coolidge (1835 – 1905)
I’ll tell you how the leaves came down. The great Tree to his children said, “You’re getting sleepy, Yellow and Brown, Yes, very sleepy, little Red; It is quite time you went to bed.”
“Ah!” begged each silly, pouting leaf, “Let us a little longer May; Dear Father Tree, behold our grief, ‘Tis such a very pleasant day We do not want to go away.”
So, just for one more merry day To the great Tree the leaflets clung, Frolicked and danced and had their way, Upon the autumn breezes swung, Whispering all their sports among,
“Perhaps the great Tree will forget And let us stay until the spring If we all beg and coax and fret.” But the great Tree did no such thing; He smiled to hear their whispering.
“Come, children all, to bed,” he cried; And ere the leaves could urge their prayer He shook his head, and far and wide, Fluttering and rustling everywhere, Down sped the leaflets through the air.
I saw them; on the ground they lay, Golden and red, a huddled swarm, Waiting till one from far away, White bed-clothes heaped upon her arm, Should come to wrap them safe and warm.
The great bare Tree looked down and smiled. “Good-night, dear little leaves” he said; And from below each sleepy child Replied “Good-night,” and murmured, “It is so nice to go to bed.”
I am so glad you are here. It helps me realize how beautiful my world is.
Rainer Maria Rilke
Weißt du noch: (ohne Titel)
by Rainer Maria Rilke
Weißt du noch: fallende Sterne, die quer wie Pferde durch die Himmel sprangen über plötzlich hingehaltne Stangen unsrer Wünsche– hatten wir so viele?– denn es sprangen Sterne, ungezählt; fast ein jeder Aufblick war vermählt mit dem raschen Wagnis ihrer Spiele, und das Herz fühlte empfand sich als ein Ganzes unter diesen Trümmern ihres Glanzes and war heil, als überstünd es sie!
Untitled [Do you still remember: falling stars]
by Rainer Maria Rilke – 1875-1926 Translated by Albert Earnest Flemming
Do you still remember: falling stars, how they leapt slantwise through the sky like horses over suddenly held-out hurdles of our wishes—did we have so many?— for stars, innumerable, leapt everywhere; almost every gaze upward became wedded to the swift hazard of their play, and our heart felt like a single thing beneath that vast disintegration of their brilliance— and was whole, as if it would survive them
by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)
Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß. Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren, und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.
Befiel den letzten Früchten voll zu sein; gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage, dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.
Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr. Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben, wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben und wird in den Alleen hin und her unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.
By Rainer Maria Rilke Translated by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebman
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.