Autumn - 秋日礼赞


It may be that I am a pessimist. For spring it is, not autumn, that makes me sad. Spring has always rightly been identified with youth, and the sorrows of youth are poignant and bitter. The daffodils which challenge so proudly and splendidly the boisterous March winds are soon shriveled and defeated, limply wrinkling to remind us of the inevitable ravages of time. The world is urgent with bursting life, with the wild exciting beauty of youth, but it is an impetuous beauty of the senses racing impatiently into the florid and surfeited luxury of summer. Here is no comfort and fulfillment, only passionate creation of transitory delight.



Autumn in contrast imposes serenity. The heat and dryness of summer have been transformed to a warm contented loveliness. Even the uncertain summer of England, so often a succession of damp and chilly days, may mellow into a golden September. Mornings have a tang of exhilaration and the evening sun sets redly as a smoke-grey mist softens the outlines of trees and houses. The early chill currents of approaching winter mingle with the lingering warmth of summer so that on dry days the air becomes alive, with the freshness of a sun-dried garden after a summer shower. Living becomes glorious.



And the world soaks in colour. Not the primary colours of spring, brittle or delicate, the reds, yellows and blues of audacious or self-effacing flowers. Autumn takes all the colours of spring and blends and softens them richly to intense shades of purple, crimson, bronze, amber and mahogany, displayed either tapestry-wise, side by side, or merged in rich new tones. The trees are resplendent in copper and gold, while cornstacks crouching above the stubble gleam deep yellow in sunlight. Green oblongs defined by hedges flecked with scarlet berries contrast with neatly-furrowed ploughlands. And moorland is spread with a royal massed embroidery of purple heather banked among radiant gorse.



Spring displays the noisy, often shallow moods of adolescence. Autumn moods are those of maturity, deeper and more intense. A grave mist-softened morning of reflection is followed within hours by a Valkyrie world of screaming twilight when elemental winds tear withered leaves from branches, rock and strip the shivering forest and raise rolling mountains on dark seas. The wind passes and the billowing clouds condense into rain, which falls with quiet persistence, filling the hardened cart-ruts in country lanes, flooding streams over sodden meadows and emulsifying the fallen leaves. Blue patches widen between the sun-lined clouds and soon the glossy bare twigs are brilliant in rain-washed sunshine.



Indoors, as the evenings draw in, lamps are lit and the fire crackles more brightly as early frosts clear the skies and brittle silver sword-points of stars pierce the night-velvet of the sky. There is hot buttered toast for tea and then records for the quiet evening: a Scarlatti sonata, a Sibelius symphony, a Beethoven violin concerto, or books that carry their readers farther than any summer journey. Sleep and contented dreams come easily in autumn. Freed from the demands and excitements of spring, we have time to hear and feel.



When the intricate patterns of branches again thread the sky and the winds veer to east and north, we are deeply aware that the death of Nature is close at hand. The birds will huddle in ruffled feathers, shelterless in icy gales, and many will die unprotected; countless animals and insects will freeze or starve while we relax in comfortable homes. Yet these deaths are a necessary part of Nature’s self-renewal and the spring that glimmers on the far side of the dreary night of winter has the enchantment of hope. Hope is delusive, and the new spring will not live up to expectations: it will bring cold, wind and rain, and the sickly tiredness that accompanies the end of winter. Autumn promises the ideal spring.