Autumn Etchings

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

I.

Morning

Her rain-kissed face is fresh as rain,
Is cool and fresh as a rain-wet leaf;
She glimmers at my window-pane,
And all my grief
Becomes a feeble rushlight, seen no more
When the gold of her gown sweeps in my door.

II.

Forenoon

Great blurs of woodland waved with wind;
Gray paths, down which October came,
That now November's blasts have thinned
And flecked with fiercer flame,
Are her delight. She loves to lie
Regarding with a gray-blue eye
The far-off hills that hold the sky:
And I I lie and gaze with her
Beyond the autumn woods and ways
Into the hope of coming days,
The spring that nothing shall deter,
That puts my soul in unison
With what's to do and what is done.

III.

Noon

Wild grapes that purple through
Leaves that are golden;
Brush-fires that pillar blue
Woods, that, enfolden
Deep in the haze of dreams,
In resignation
Give themselves up, it seems,
To divination:
Woods, that, ablaze with oak,
That the crow flew in,
Gaze through the brushwood smoke
On their own ruin,
And on the countenance of Death who stalks
Amid their miles,
While to himself he talks
And smiles:
Where, in their midst, Noon sits and holds
Communion with their grays and golds,
Transforming with her rays their golds and grays,
And in my heart the memories of dead days.

IV.

Afternoon

Wrought-iron hues of blood and bronze,
Like some wild dawn's,
Make fierce each leafy spire
Of blackberry brier,
Where, through their thorny fire,
She goes, the Afternoon, from wood to wood,
From crest to oak-crowned crest
Of the high hill-lands, where the Morning stood
With rosy-ribboned breast.
Along the hills she takes the tangled path
Unto the quiet close of day,
Musing on what a lovely death she hath
The unearthly golden beryl far away
Banding the gradual west,
Seen through cathedral columns of the pines
And minster naves of woodlands arched with vines;
The golden couch, spread of the setting sun,
For her to lie, and me to gaze, upon.

V.

Evening

The winds awake,
And, whispering, shake
The aster-flower whose doom is sealed;
The sumach-bloom
Bows down its plume;
And, blossom-Bayard of the field,
The chicory stout
To the winds' wild rout
Lifts up its ragged shield.
Low in the west the Evening shows
A ridge of rose;
And, stepping Earthward from the hills,
Where'er she goes
The cricket wakes, and all the silence spills
With reed-like music shaken from the weeds:
She takes my hand
And leads
Softly my soul into the Fairyland,
The wonder-world of gold and chrysolite,
She builds there at the haunted edge of night.

VI.

Night

Autumn woods the winds tramp down
Sowing acorns left and right,
Where, in rainy raiment, Night
Tiptoes, rustling wild her gown
Dripping in the moon's pale light,
In the moonlight wan that hurries
Trailing now a robe of cloud
Now of glimmer, ghostly browed,
Through the leaves whose wildness skurries,
And whose tatters swirl and swarm
Round her in her stormy starkness;
She who takes my heart that leaps,
That exults, and onward sweeps,
Like a red leaf in the darkness
And the tumult of the storm.

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