Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness I Oxford Open Learning

Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness

It’s September, a time of year when most people’s thoughts turn away from sandcastles and flipflops to crackling bonfires and welly boots. Autumn is a time of change. As the colours of the trees shift, so too do the patterns of our lives. School or college starts; the house empties of summer visitors. It can be easy to feel a little melancholy at this time of year, with the sky a little darker and the wind a little chillier.

To make you feel better, take a leaf (pun intended) from these authors, whose writings about Autumn examine the beauty and potential, as well as the melancholy, of the season.

Jane Austen, extract from 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 has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.


Robert Louis Stevenson, Autumn Fires

In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the Autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The gray smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!


Robert Frost, Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.


Angela Carter, extract from Saints and Strangers

Sad; so sad, those smoky-rose, smoky-mauve evenings of late Autumn, sad enough to pierce the heart. The sun departs the sky in winding sheets of gaudy cloud; anguish enters the city, a sense of the bitterest regret, a nostalgia for things we never knew, anguish of the turn of the year, the time of impotent yearning, the inconsolable season.


Harper Lee, extract from Go Set A Watchman

Autumn was her happiest season. There was an expectancy about its sounds and shapes: the distant thunk pomp of leather and young bodies on the practice field near her house made her think of bands and cold Coca-Colas, parched peanuts and the sight of people’s breath in the air. There was even something to look forward to when school started – renewals of old feuds and friendships, weeks of learning again what one half forgot in the long summer. Fall was hot-supper time with everything to eat one missed in the morning when too sleepy to enjoy it.


Happy Autumn!

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Alice has an MA in English Literature and has taught at GCSE and A level. She now tutors distance learning students and is an examiner for AS and A Level English Language and Literature. When she's not teaching, Alice can be found devouring books, writing, crafting and chasing after her two small boys.

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