Rebecca Metcalfe

Autumn: the undying attraction of the season according to John Clare

Autumn is many people’s favourite season, including mine. And I think I know the reason. Nature. Whenever people think of Autumn, things that will consistently come to mind are crisp weather, red-brown leaves and trees scattered across golden fields. Everything about it feels so alive even though it is technically dying. I personally find autumnal weather to be a very calming environment.

Romantic poet John Clare (1793-1864) sums this up a lot better than I can in what is probably my favourite ever poem: the appropriately titled Autumn. The poem is inserted below as it captures the feeling of autumn much better than I can. The speaker is simply viewing an Autumnal landscape, but not from a specific spot or place. They are describing the season in a way that everyone has seen it regardless of where in the world you are. In 3 short stanzas, Clare encapsulates the very essence of autumn, the beauty of it, the contrast between things dying and feeling alive, the calmness and peacefulness that comes with it and the way that everything is simply golden.

The final stanza is the strongest for me; it shows the glory of autumn but without shouting about it. Clare’s simple yet effective imagery focuses in on the majestic nature of autumn and the writing is as beautiful as the season it describes. When I read these final lines I feel the power and the glory of autumn. Clare feels humbled by the landscape and in awe of it and whenever I read this poem I feel in awe both of autumn and of Clare’s beautiful writing. The poem is below for you to make your own judgement.


By John Clare

The thistledown’s flying, though the winds are all still,

On the green grass now lying, now mounting the hill,

The spring from the fountain now boils like a pot;

Through stones past the counting it bubbles red-hot.


The ground parched and cracked is like overbaked bread,

The greensward all wracked is, bents dried up and dead.

The fallow fields glitter like water indeed,

And gossamers twitter, flung from weed unto weed.


Hill-tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,

And the rivers we’re eying burn to gold as they run;

Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;

Whoever looks round sees Eternity there.


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