A fellow blogger (I’ve forgotten who, sorry!) recently posted a very positive piece about November, extolling all its autumnal virtues. I’ve always thought of autumn as my favourite season but that is based on late September going into October, when the leaves turn all those wonderful shades of gold and brown. Saying that reminds me of a song:
The photos in that video show what I love about autumn, but I’m afraid that my positivity about the season tends to evaporate when November rolls around: I’ve always found November a dull month. The clocks have just gone back, heralding the onset of long, dark evenings, the weather usually starts to turn from autumnal to wintery, and everything seems to be on hold until December arrives, bringing the promise of Christmas and good times with family. Unlike the USA, who have Thanksgiving Day, for us it’s a kind of nothing month. I wondered if I was alone in that so I did some research, particularly into poems about November, to see what others thought of this month.
Before I share any with you, take a look at this from Google:
I must admit I hadn’t realised that death was a criterion by which poets were judged! That Robin Williams movie has a lot to answer for!
The first poem I’ve chosen to share is by Thomas Hood, and is simply called November:
No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –
He doesn’t really like this month either, does he! At least he has shown me that my feelings about November are nothing new: Hood lived from 1799 to 1845 so that poem is almost 200 years old. Encouraged by finding this I thought I’d expand on this theme, as it is fertile ground for some very descriptive (and dismal!) poetry. My apologies to those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, who no doubt are basking in sunshine and increasing temperatures and must be wondering what I’m on about: I guess your equivalent must be May, when autumn turns to winter for you.
Not being poetic myself, and feeling short of inspiration to recall any more poems about this month, I returned to my main reference source: Google. If you do the same you’ll appreciate how much dreary doggerel I’ve spared you by not sharing them with you here! The great (?) William Topaz McGonagall seems to have been particularly taken with bad news stories from this month. Here’s a typical example of his (thankfully) unique poetic style. One thing most of his poems have in common is that their length is inversely proportional to their artistic merit. These are just the first four verses of his poem about the Funeral of the Late Ex-Provost Rough of Dundee:
Twas in the year of 1888, and on the 19th of November,
Which the friends of the late Ex-Provost Rough will long remember,
Because ’twas on the 19th of November his soul took its flight
To the happy land above, the land of pure delight.
Take him for all in all, he was a very good man,
And during his Provostship he couldn’t be equalled in Great Britain,
Which I proclaim to the world without any dread,
Because while Provost he reduced the public-houses to three hundred.
Whereas at the time there were 620 public-houses in the town,
But being a friend of the temperance cause he did frown,
Because he saw the evils of intemperance every day
While sitting on the bench, so he resolved to sweep public-houses away.
And in doing so the good man, in my opinion, was right,
Because the evils of intemperance is an abomination in God’s sight;
And all those that get drunk are enemies to Him,
Likewise enemies to Christ’s kingdom, which is a great sin.
There are actually ten more verses of that tripe, and you can probably see why (1) I’ve only given you an extract and (2) audiences used to throw fruit and vegetables at him when he performed his poetry in public. He doesn’t sound as though he’d have been much fun at darts night with the lads in the pub, but it’s a change from poetic perceptions of the changing seasons, isn’t it!
Thomas Hardy is probably better known for his novels, but he also wrote poetry. Indeed, his final novel, Jude The Obscure, was published in 1896, and from then until his death in 1928 he only published poetry – he is rated by many as one of the best twentieth century British poets. Here’s an offering from him, entitled At Day-Close In November:
The ten hours’ light is abating,
And a late bird flies across,
Where the pines, like waltzers waiting,
Give their black heads a toss.
Beech leaves, that yellow the noon-time,
Float past like specks in the eye;
I set every tree in my June time,
And now they obscure the sky.
And the children who ramble through here
Conceive that there never has been
A time when no tall trees grew here,
A time when none will be seen.
There is the beginning of a theme developing here, I think: it’s rather bleak, isn’t it! One poem that did strike me in both its beauty and brevity was this one:
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
That is called November Night and is by a poet I’ll admit to not having heard of before. Let’s face it, if you’d heard the name Adelaide Crapsey you’d remember it! I rather like that little poem and didn’t just choose it so that I could mention the poet’s name, honest! I found this biography of her and it seems she lived a brief and tragic life. This poem was written when she was already aware of her own mortality, having been diagnosed with tuberculosis of the brain lining, and this makes it all the more poignant for me. The imagery of passing ghosts assumes extra significance when you know that she is one herself. In just 20 words she has captured perfectly the essence of November, as I believe it.
My final poetic choice is by Robert Frost, who was mentioned in the picture above as being one of those dead poets, so it seems only fair that I share his offering on this month, which is called My November Guest:
My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.
Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted grey
Is silver now with clinging mist.
The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.
Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise
After the older poems, here’s something a little more recent to finish off with – but no less poetic for all that, in its own way:
It rather fits the theme of this being a disappointing month, I think. Stay warm and dry, if you can!