Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, IN AUTUMN TONES, by MARGARET PERKINS BRIGGS

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

IN AUTUMN TONES, by            
First Line: They have not seen beyond their garden wall
Last Line: Strange winds begrudge the gleaner's ancient share.
Subject(s): Dreams; Evening; Gardens & Gardening; Ghosts; Harvest; Supernatural; Nightmares; Sunset; Twilight


They have not seen beyond their garden wall,
These asters and petunias, but still,
Weavers of dream, they do not think at all
Of fires the sumach kindles, nor how hill
On hill grows strange with a foreboding blue.
Even such ancient syllables of grief
As, lightly scrawled, blur Summer's script anew,
Fade here, unread, leaf after tattered leaf.

If radiance like this goes out in gray
Forgetfulness; and if for things so frail
And beautiful there be no secret way
Of swift escape from some harsh-fingered gale, --
Let them dream on, untroubled . . . these who go
Where scented flame is ash beneath the snow.


This garden wears unmoldered memories
For those the dusk returns by two and two:
A straying wistfulness among the trees,
Some haunting sense of secret rendevous.
Only a shimmer, less than any light,
Of hair, once bright against the gloom, or thrill,
Futile and faint, of passion on the night
Marks where they loiter . . . plighted lovers still.

They need not know -- who are forever done
With stricken beauty in the hearts of men,
And singing summers flown, one after one, --
These shabby elms are tenantless again.
The lily pond is dust, the garden wall
Crumbling . . . but this they need not know at all.


This slow far-gathering of gloom to hood
The hills still flushed with sunset, and to trail
Along the gleam of waters, unwithstood,
A sorcery of purple like a veil, --
This is no twilight, but a mood grown gray
And inarticulate . . . brooding over all
The summers gone their unremorseful way
Leaving brown fields, and stricken leaves to fall.
Wearing her silver mist of memory,
The moon will walk along these autumn-blurred
Old ways, and, one thrilled moment, there will be
The floating fragrance of a face . . . or word;
And pastures, hushed and wistful, where they wait,
Will dream again of flocks they lost of late.


There need be nothing said, unless it be
Hers are the unforgotten, fragrant ways
Of queenly loveliness, for this is she
Whom many men adored in other days.
And nothing need be said at all of glints
Like gold along her thinning, faded hair;
Of faintly hectic lips, and wine-red tints
In fluttering scarfs that she has come to wear.

For, in old ways that women know, she will
Be proud . . . who wore the summer like a rhyme
Of roses on her brow . . . and wistful still
For poppies in her purple aster time.
So, let there be no piteous word or sigh
Where, veiled in violet, she passes by.


Now I, who have no field, nor any bin,
Knowing how grave my need, go out to glean
The weightless harvest I would gather in
Against the time when days are drab and lean.
Some still ungarnered glow, like memories
Paling along the stubble, dreams of Spring
Folded away in meadow-mint, -- for these
Day after day my heart goes harvesting.

Beyond this shimmer that pale-memoried
November wears, there will be dearth . . . I fear
For those, like me, with hungry hearts to feed
Now that the gray, far-gathered wisps draw near, --
For those still seeking whisps of beauty where
Strange winds begrudge the gleaner's ancient share.

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