I composed this sonnet for my poetry writing class at Oxford last fall. Something about all the yellow leaves swirling outside my window this October morning made me think of it again…

Lift, lift up, your molten-maple gladness, trees,
Your ambered arms and age-wracked fingers ringed
With yellow gold! Cerulean sky, your firstborn sapphire sing!—
As down your favor kingly falls on all you see.

Beneath blue hazes, violet-veilèd meadows dream, till seized
With wakeful western fire, upstirring wingèd
Embers from the brume. To Grace in all this glory, rememb’ring
Earth lifts chaliced ‘thorn, decanting praises on the breeze.

Dear dying world, such seasoned glories seem twice fair
As those with which your youth was clothed in April’s mirth.
This death a likeness of that sorrow none could bear
But He; this beauty vouchsafe of that birth
Which follows death. Mark, my soul, such sweetness in the air!
What secrets in decaying leaves and sodden earth!

9 Responses to “Autumn-Anthem”

  1. Josh says:

    As I was driving home through the splendor of the Shenandoah Valley yesterday, the thought occurred more than once that someone should compose a sonnet to celebrate it. Thank you for answering that need in such grand fashion. 🙂

  2. Devon says:

    The trees have been so majestic this year, and I was just thinking this weekend of how strange it is that dying leaves are so beautiful. It reminded me of Christ’s cross and the life we have in Him. You painted this idea well, Lanier.

  3. Breezy says:

    I don’t have any but thank you for sharing this beauty, Lanier. I always love reading your blog and especially enjoy Autumn-Anthem. Makes me want to write more.

  4. Breezy says:

    (Oops, meant to say, “I don’t have any words..”) 😉

  5. Josie Ray says:

    I wonder…is Christmas intentionally hidden in the last three lines? Or am I reading it there because the Christmas Spirit has come early to our home this year, with visions of lights, tiny, growing gift caches, and new Christmas recipes secretly rehearsed in the Little Italy test kitchen?

    Elves work here! early! (the same elves that illuminate the leaves?) Planning for that ever-blessed Birth which follows this utterly beautiful swan song called Autumn.

    Lovely photo. Lovely mood. Thank you, Lanier, for…well, I may have to abandon the Christmas test kitchen today (cookie-pressed shortbread, springerle attempts, and a side-glance at paper Moravian stars) to read poetry all day.

    While I ponder what can be meant by “chaliced ‘thorn.” (Isn’t it bliss to struggle with ideas hidden in beautiful poetry?)

    Kindest regards,
    Josie Ray

  6. (josie ray) says:

    (i think i’ve interpreted the line containing “chaliced ‘thorn,” but i’m too shy to say, in case i’m wrong…smile. equally wrong would be saying it, if correct: the secrets of poetry should not be casually revealed.)

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      I love that you’ve been pondering it, Josie!

      “‘Thorn” refers to the shrub silverthorn, or eleagnus, which takes my breath away each autumn with its sweetness. Thanks for your thoughtfulness over my lines. ☺️

  7. Josie Ray says:

    Happy Birthday to Mr. Keats! (Fittingly born at October’s end…)

    Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
    Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
    Conspiring with him how to load and bless
    With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run…

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