Monday, September 15, 2008


Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass, 'Tis Autumn.
Françoise Hardy, Autumn Rendez-vous.
Hugh Hopper and Richard Sinclair, Long Lingers Autumn Time.
The Moody Blues, Forever Autumn.
Gene Autry, When Golden Leaves Are Falling.
Chet Atkins, The Red Leaves of Autumn.
Yves Montand, Les Feuilles Mortes.
Jerry Lee Lewis, Autumn Leaves.
Ahmad Jamal Trio, Autumn Leaves.
Lena Horne, Autumn in New York.
Bud Powell, Autumn in New York.
Pet Shop Boys, Only The Wind.
Pyotr Tchaikovsky, The Seasons: Autumn Song (October).
Xmal Deutschland, Autumn.
Captain Beefheart, Autumn's Child.
Roberto Carlos, Folhas de Outono.
Manu Chao, L'automne Est Làs.
Walter Huston, September Song.
Charles Ives, Second Sonata for Violin and Piano: Autumn.
Brian Eno, Dunwich Beach, Autumn 1960.
Sonny Rollins, Autumn Nocturne.

Summer was gone
and the heat died down.

Nick Drake, "Time of No Reply."

Though brilliantly sunny, Saturday morning was overcoat weather again, not just topcoat weather, as it had been all week and as everyone hoped it would stay for the big weekend--the weekend of the Yale game. Of the twenty-some young men who were waiting at the station for their dates to arrive on the ten-fifty-two, no more than six or seven were out on the cold, open platform.

J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey.

First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren't rare. But there be bad and good, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn't begun yet...

But you take October, now. School's been on a month and you're riding easier in the reins, jogging along. You got time to think of the garbage you'll dump on old man Prickett's porch, or the hairy-ape costume you'll wear to the YMCA the last night of the month. And if it's around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash-gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners.

Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Schiele, Autumn Tree

Why does the sky's blue darken as autumn comes? Is it just the gradual subtraction of cousinly green from the foreground palette, the addition of oranges and browns? That little maple, hastening to turn before her sisters did for some reason, lifting and shaking her burning hands. The hurt and the old turned soonest: the high outermost limb of that dying ancient; that riven but still living one.

John Crowley, Daemonomania.

The season changes. A cold wind chills the beach.

The long lines of it grow longer, emptier,
A darkness gathers though it does not fall

And the whiteness grows less vivid on the wall.
The man who is walking turns blankly on the sand.
He observes how the north is always enlarging the change...

Wallace Stevens, "The Auroras of Autumn."

Phillipe Sainte-Laudy, Gold River.

The maples perhaps undergo the most complete transformation of all the forest trees. Their leaves become fairly luminous, as if they glowed with inward light. In October a maple-tree before your window lights up your room like a great lamp.

John Burroughs, Under the Maples.

If, about the last of October, you ascend any hill in the outskirts of town and look over the forest, you will see, amid the brown of other oaks...the bright-red tops or crescents of the scarlet oaks, very equally and thickly distributed on all sides, even to the horizon. Complete trees standing exposed on the edges of the forest, where you have never suspected them, or perhaps towering above the surrounding trees, or reflecting a warm rose red from the very edge of the horizon in favorable lights.

All this you will see, and much more, if you are prepared to see it--if you look for it. Otherwise, regular and universal as this phenomenon is, you will think for threescore years and ten that all the wood is at this season sere and brown.

Henry David Thoreau, journal, 4 November 1858.

In this season the days wax short & the nights long. The air is dark, & the winds enter the northern regions...The weather changeth, & the rivers & springs wax less. The orchards & fruits wither. The beauty of earth fadeth. Birds cease their singing. Serpents seek their holes where they assembled their living in summer for the time of winter. The earth is as an old naked woman that goeth from youth to age. This season of harvest is cold & dry, this time black choler is moved. In this season is good to eat meats that be hot & moist as chickens, lambs, & drink old wines, eat sweet raisins. And keep thee from all things that breed black choler, as lying with women more than in summer, nor bathe ye not but [only] if great need require it to be done. In this season if a man have need of vomiting, do it at noon in the hottest of the day. For at that time all the superfluities of man's body gather together.

Secretum secretorum, "Of Autompne, or hervest."

Autumn hath all of the summer's fruitful treasure,
Gone is our sport, fled is poor Croydon's pleasure.
Short days, sharp days, long nights, come on apace,
Ah, who shall hide us from the winter's face?

Thomas Nashe, Summer's Last Will and Testament.

When the summer's over
and the dark clouds hide the sun,
neither you nor I'm to blame
when all is said and done.

ABBA, "When All Is Said and Done."

Woodhull Adams, White Cottage in Autumn

'And most hawks hate autumn.'

'Why?' asked Einar, suddenly interested. 'I have hunted a hawk in autumn but it never does well and I have always wondered why that is.'

'It is simple enough,' Sigvat replied. 'Here is a bird that hangs in the air, looking for the least little movement on the ground, which is its supper. And there are thousands of blowing leaves.'

Robert Low, The Whale Road.

It was the middle of the Ninth Month, a time when not even the most insensitive of men can be unaware of the mountain colors. The autumn winds tore at the trees and the leaves of the vines seemed fearful of being left behind. Someone far away was reading a sutra, and someone was invoking the Holy Name, and for the rest Ono seemed deserted.

Indifferent to the clappers meant to frighten them from the harvest, the deer that sought shelter by the garden fences were sombre spots among the hues of autumn. A stag bayed plaintively, and the roar of a waterfall was as if meant to break in upon sad thoughts.

Insect songs, less insistent, among the brown grasses, seemed to say that they must go but did not know where. Gentians peered from the grasses, heavy with dew, as if they alone might be permitted to stay on.

The sights and sounds of autumn, ordinary enough, but recast by the occasion and the place into a melancholy scarcely to be borne.

Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji.

Here by the baring bough
Raking up leaves,
Often I ponder how
Springtime deceives--
I, an old woman now,
Raking up leaves.

Here in the avenue
Raking up leaves,
Lords' ladies pass in view,
Until one heaves
Sighs at life's russet hue,
Raking up leaves!

Just as my shape you see
Raking up leaves,
I saw, when fresh and free,
Those memory weaves
Into grey ghosts by me,
Raking up leaves.

Yet, Dear, though one may sigh,
Raking up leaves,
New leaves will dance on high--
Earth never grieves!--
Will not, when missed am I
Raking up leaves.

Thomas Hardy, "Autumn in King's Hintock Park."

Bruegel the Elder, The Corn Harvest.

At the time of our removal to St. Petersburg it was autumn--a season when, in the country, the weather is clear and keen and bright, all agricultural labor has come to an end, the great sheaves of corn are safely garnered in the byre, and the birds are flying hither and thither in clamorous flocks. Yes, at that season the country is joyous and fair, but here in St. Petersburg, at the time when we reached the city, we encountered nothing but rain, bitter autumn frosts, dull skies, ugliness, and crowds of strangers who looked hostile, discontented, and disposed to take offense.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Poor Folk.

...So many others, pedants, madmen, imbeciles
Admire the spring and the dawn,
That pair of virgins, rosier than their frocks.

Stinging autumn, you I love, more than
Any little angel face,
You, cruel and strange-eyed courtesan.

Paul Verlaine, "October Evening."

Central Park, in its finest hour

Even here autumn has its charm. This evening I went up to the woods above the town; I followed a main road bordered on one side by russet lindens and walnut trees. Men were knocking down the walnuts with long poles, and an odor of sodium iodide came from the husks that the children were trampling on the ground. A strong warm wind was blowing. Near the woods some men were plowing. As they passed, people hailed one another aloud and it seemed as if you could hear the children's songs from a greater distance than usual...

Every autumn I read Dickens, Turgenyev, or Eliot, but especially Dickens, whom I like to read more than anyone else at the end of the day, on my return from a long walk in the woods; then in slippers beside the fire while drinking tea and always in that same big armchair at La Roque...Every year at this time a refrain of all my old devotions and ardors is reawakened; I become a good boy again.

André Gide, journal, 1894.

They did not think how oft my eyesight turned
Toward the far skies where Indian Sunshine burned
That I was leaving a companion band,
That I had farewells even for that wild land
They did not think my head and heart were older
My strength more broken and my feelings colder
That spring was hastening into Autumn sere
And leafless trees make loveliest prospects drear...

Branwell Brontë, "Sir Henry Tunstall."

Jose Malhoa, Outono.

Ceres will decay like the other pagan gods when Christianity comes; the fall from paganism is like the fall from paradise. Eve has insisted on going off alone with her gardening tools to the Temptation; she is flying from the society of Adam and will not fly (it is a reproach against her) from Vertumnus, the god of autumn, of the Fall; the very richness of the garden makes it heavy with autumn.

William Empson, Some Versions of Pastoral.

And merry it is when autumn sere
Cometh to tell of the closing year,
When the joyful villagers’ gladsome din
Telleth the harvest is gathered in.
And the vintage is ripe--though frosts appear.
‘Tis merry, ay merry, in autumn sere.

The Olio, or Museum of Entertainment (1829).

This is the start of our gentle time, Gladys...our season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom friend of the maturing sun. On the farm there was almost a sense of the veld sighing with relief when autumn finally set in. We certainly did. Man and animal. Months of grace while we waited for the first rains.

Athol Fugard, A Lesson From Aloes.

There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October. The sunshine is peculiarly genial; and in sheltered places, as on the side of a bank, or of a barn or house, one becomes acquainted and friendly with the sunshine. It seems to be of a kindly and homely nature. And the green grass strewn with a few withered leaves looks the more green and beautiful for them. In summer or spring nature is farther from one's sympathies.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, "American Notebooks," 7 October 1841.

Who is there, with feelings however vitiated by an intercourse with a heartless world, that does not feel their spirit touched by the pensive solemnity of the season, as they wander forth amidst the 'sere and yellow leaves' which rustle beneath their footsteps? How soothing is their influence, and the heart becomes filled with softer and better emotions. The proud visions of ambition vanish away like the passing clouds. One wonders at the change, and can scarcely believe himself the same individual who, but a few moments before had mingled in the vortex of fashion.

James Elijah Tinker.

Dali, The Puzzle of Autumn

Soon the lights come on
Stools and chairs go up
Someone will shout out last call
The summer's past
Soon the snow will kill the rest of the grass
Old tree's died
There's nothin' to do in the fall.

Paul Westerberg, early version of lyrics to "Here Comes a Regular."

Millais, Autumn Leaves.

Let it exist, this bank, this beauty, and I, for one instant, steeped in pleasure. The sun is hot. I see the river. I see trees specked and burnt in the autumn sunlight. Boats float past, through the red, through the green. Far away a bell tolls, but not for death. There are bells that ring for life. A leaf falls, from joy.

Virginia Woolf, The Waves.

Yesterday I passed by an elm avenue, leading to a beautiful old house. The road between the trees was covered in all its length and breadth with fallen leaves--a carpet of pale gold. Further on, I came to a plantation, mostly of larches; it alone in the richest aureate hue, with here and there a splash of blood-red, which was a young beech in its moment of autumnal glory.

I looked at an alder, laden with brown catkins, its blunt foliage stained with innumerable shades of lovely colour. Near it was a horse-chestnut, with but a few leaves hanging on its branches, and those a deep orange. The limes, I see, are already bare.

To-night the wind is loud, and rain dashes against my casement; to-morrow I shall awake to a sky of winter.

George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, "Autumn."

A harvest crop of autumnal songs, often bitter:

"'Tis Autumn" written in the '40s by Henry Nemo, is performed here by Ella Fitzgerald and the guitarist Joe Pass (on 1976's Fitzgerald and Pass...Again); Françoise Hardy's somber reminiscence (there are none more mournful about the loss of youth than youth itself) is from 1966, on Les Chansons D'amour; Hugh Hopper and Richard Sinclair's "Long Lingers Autumn Time," from 1983, is on Parabolic Versions; the Moody Blues' pure cheesefest "Forever Autumn," from 1978, is on Anthology.

Thoughts on falling leaves: Gene Autry's "Golden Leaves of Autumn," from 1937, is on The Singing Cowboy, while Chet Atkins' "Red Leaves of Autumn," from 1957, is on Hi-Fi in Focus.

And then there is "Les Feuilles Mortes," written by Jacques Prévert (set to music by Joseph Kozma) during WWII and immortalized in 1946 by Yves Montand. Translated soon afterward by Johnny Mercer, who renamed it "Autumn Leaves": encountered by Jerry Lee Lewis from 1980, from the unreleased Caribou Ranch sessions and the mighty Ahmad Jamal Trio, from 1955 (OKeh and Epic Recordings).

"Autumn in New York," written by Vernon Duke--Lena Horne's exhortation (from 1998's Being Myself) and Bud Powell's demolition, from 1953 (The Amazing Bud Powell Vol. 2).

The Pet Shop Boys' "Only the Wind" is on the very autumnal LP Behavior, from 1990; Tchaikovsky's "Autumn Song" or "October," is one of a dozen piano pieces he composed in 1875-1876 for his op. 37, The Seasons (performed here by Antonin Kubalek); "Autumn's Child" was the last track on Captain Beefheart's debut LP, 1967's Safe As Milk; Xmal Deutschland, Hamburg's all-female Goth group of the 1980s, recorded "Autumn" for a John Peel session in 1985.

More falling leaves: Manu Chao's scattered thoughts on les feuilles mortes is on 2004's Sibérie M'était Contéee while the Brazilian singer Roberto Carlos' "Folhas de Outono" is from 1967's Em Ritmo de Aventura.

Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill's "September Song" was written for the 1938 play Knickerbocker Holiday. Anderson, an anarchist/pacifist, used Knickerbocker Holiday to equate FDR's New Deal with fascism; in the play, "September Song" was a lament by legendary New York governor/tyrant Pieter Stuyvesant, the play's FDR figure. The politics fade, the song endures. (Performed here by the original actor, Walter Huston, on From Berlin to Broadway.) And Eno's "Dunwich Beach" is from 1982's Ambient 4: On Land.

Most autumn songs are somber, quiet, shadowy things, stained with regret and loss, but occasionally there is a celebratory song in the genre, embracing the sunlit side of autumn--its sense of fulfillment, the way it burgeons with accumulated life, its extravagance and exuberance. Sonny Rollins' "Autumn Nocturne," recorded live when Rollins was 48, opens with a four-minute cadenza in which Rollins delivers one of the most glorious solo statements in recorded jazz. He rips along, shouts, swaggers (at one point he grunts twice at his own audacity), seems to do somersaults, quotes from "Home Sweet Home," and finally plunges like a diver into the groove his band has prepared for him. It seems the harvest of a performing life, but Rollins has kept on without pause for thirty years since. (On Silver City.)

David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008

Big Maceo, Worried Life Blues.
Gang of Four, We Live As We Dream, Alone.

1 comment:

G Palacios said...

What an extraordinary collection of thoughts! Delighted I stumbled across this. Thank you.