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An essay by Charles S. Brooks

Autumn Days

Title:     Autumn Days
Author: Charles S. Brooks [More Titles by Brooks]

It was rather a disservice when the poet wrote that the melancholy days were come. His folly is inexplicable. If he had sung through his nose of thaw and drizzle, all of us would have pitched in to help him in his dismal chorus. But October and November are brisk and cheerful months.

In the spring, to be sure, there is a languid sadness. Its beauty is too frail. Its flowerets droop upon the plucking. Its warm nights, its breeze that blows from the fragrant hills, warn us how brief is the blossom time. In August the year slumbers. Its sleepy days nod across the heavy orchards and the yellow grain fields. Smoke looks out from chimneys, but finds no wind for comrade. For a penny it would stay at home and doze upon the hearth, to await a playmate from the north. The birds are still. Only the insects sing. A threshing-machine, far off, sinks to as drowsy a melody as theirs, like a company of grasshoppers, but with longer beard and deeper voice. The streams that frolicked to nimble tunes in May now crawl from pool to pool. The very shadows linger under cover. They crouch close beneath shed and tree, and scarcely stir a finger until the fiery sun has turned its back.

September rubs its eyes. It hears autumn, as it were, pounding on its bedroom door, and turns for another wink of sleep. But October is awakened by the frost. It dresses itself in gaudy color. It flings a scarlet garment on the woods and a purple scarf across the hills. The wind, at last, like a merry piper, cries out the tune, and its brisk and sunny days come dancing from the north.

Yesterday was a holiday and I went walking in the woods. Although it is still September it grows late, and there is already a touch of October in the air. After a week of sultry weather--a tardy remnant from last month--a breeze yesterday sprang out of the northwest. Like a good housewife it swept the dusty corners of the world. It cleared our path across the heavens and raked down the hot cobwebs from the sky. Clouds had yawned in idleness. They had sat on the dull circle of the earth like fat old men with drooping chins, but yesterday they stirred themselves. The wind whipped them to their feet. It pursued them and plucked at their frightened skirts. It is thus, after the sleepy season, that the wind practices for the rough and tumble of November. It needs but to quicken the tempo into sixteenth notes, to rouse a wholesome tempest.

Who could be melancholy in so brisk a month? The poet should hang his head for shame at uttering such a libel. These dazzling days could hale him into court. The jury, with one voice, without rising from its box, would hold for a heavy fine. Apples have been gathered in. There is a thirsty, tipsy smell from the cider presses. Hay is pitched up to the very roof. Bursting granaries show their golden produce at the cracks. The yellow stubble of the fields is a promise that is kept. And who shall say that there is any sadness in the fallen leaves? They are a gay and sounding carpet. Who dances here needs no bell upon his ankle, and no fiddle for the tune.

And sometimes in October the air is hazy and spiced with smells. Nature, it seems, has cooked a feast in the heat of summer, and now its viands stand out to cool.

November lights its fires and brings in early candles. This is the season when chimneys must be tightened for the tempest. Their mighty throats roar that all is strong aloft. Dogs now leave a stranger to go his way in peace, and they bark at the windy moon. Windows rattle, but not with sadness. They jest and chatter with the blast. They gossip of storms on barren mountains.

Night, for so many months, has been a timid creature. It has hid so long in gloomy cellars while the regal sun strutted on his way. But now night and darkness put their heads together for his overthrow. In shadowy garrets they mutter their discontent and plan rebellion. They snatch the fields by four o'clock. By five they have restored their kingdom. They set the stars as guardsmen of their rule.

Now travelers are pelted into shelter. Signboards creak. The wind whistles for its rowdy company. Night, the monarch, rides upon the storm.

A match! We'll light the logs. We'll crack nuts and pass the cider. How now, master poet, is there no thirsty passage in your throat? I offer you a bowl of milk and popcorn. Must you brood tonight upon the barren fields--the meadows brown and sear? Who cares now how the wind grapples with the chimneys? Here is snug company, warm and safe. Here are syrup and griddle-cakes. Do you still suck your melancholy pen when such a feast is going forward?

[The end]
Charles S. Brooks's essay: Autumn Days