“Now October has come again”

I’ve put up the words of Thomas Wolfe several times on October 1 (he was born on October 3, 1900, and died of tuberculosis at just 37). This is a repost from exactly ten years ago. The prose is gorgeous and evocative, and of course appropriate to the day.

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No writer has captured the color and feel of America better than Thomas Wolfe. From Of Time and the River:

Now October has come again which in our land is different from October in the other lands.  The ripe, the golden month has come again, and in Virginia the chinkapins are falling.  Frost sharps the middle music of the seasons, and all things living on the earth turn home again. The country is so big that you cannot say that the country has the same October. In Maine, the frost comes sharp and quick as driven nails, just for a week or so the woods, all of the bright and bitter leaves, flare up; the maples turn a blazing bitter red, and other leaves turn yellow like a living light, falling upon you as you walk the woods, falling about you like small pieces of the sun so that you cannot say that sunlight shakes and flutters on the ground, and where the leaves. . .

October is the richest of the seasons: the fields are cut, the granaries are full, the bins are loaded to the brim with fatness, and from the cider-press the rich brown oozings of the York Imperials run.  The bee bores to the belly of the yellowed grape, the fly gets old and fat and blue, he buzzes loud, crawls slow, creeps heavily to death on sill and ceiling, the sun goes down in blood and pollen across the bronzed and mown fields of old October.

The corn is shocked: it sticks out in hard yellow rows upon dried ears, fit now for great red barns in Pennsylvania, and the big stained teeth of crunching horses. The indolent hooves kick swiftly at the boards, the barn is sweet with hay and leather, wood and apples—this, and the clean dry crunching of the teeth is all:  the sweat, the labor, and the plow is over. The late pears mellow on a sunny shelf, smoked hams hang to the warped barn rafters; the pantry shelves are loaded with 300 jars of fruit. Meanwhile the leaves are turning, turning up in Maine, the chestnut burrs plop thickly to the earth in gusts of wind, and in Virginia the chinkapins are falling.

7 Comments

  1. Mike ZIMAN
    Posted October 1, 2020 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Keats “to Autumn” is similar:
    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;
    To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
    And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
    With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
    And still more, later flowers for the bees,
    Until they think warm days will never cease,
    For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

    Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
    Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
    Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
    Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
    Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
    Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
    Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
    And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
    Steady thy laden head across a brook;
    Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
    Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

    Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
    Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
    While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
    And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
    Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
    Among the river sallows, borne aloft
    Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
    And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
    Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
    The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
    And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

  2. darrelle
    Posted October 1, 2020 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    That is beautifully evocative. Brought a tear to me eye.

  3. GBJames
    Posted October 1, 2020 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    I had to google what chinkapins were.

    Nice picture. I especially like the red barn. The Smithsonian recently had a story that illuminated the origin of the red barn… cottages in Norway and the history of one particular old played-out copper mine.

  4. rickflick
    Posted October 1, 2020 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Chinquapins – “A legendary Ozark chestnut tree, thought extinct, is rediscovered,”

  5. Laurance
    Posted October 1, 2020 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for bringing us Beauty today. With so much horror going on these days – pandemic, president, hatred and ill will, stress, fear, threat – we need all the Goodness we can get.

  6. Posted October 1, 2020 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Very nice, Jerry. I hadn’t seen this before. Thanks for sharing. Gary

  7. Posted October 2, 2020 at 2:56 am | Permalink

    A phenologist would ask if the frosts do come ?


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