Songs of the Fall

“If the robin is to many the harbinger of spring, then the cicada is perhaps an advance scout for autumn, warning all who hear it to enjoy the summer while you can, for the end is near.”

~ Charles Fonaas

Autumnal days are here again, the cicadas are singing, and we are again treated to the fiery bursts of yellow, orange and red autumn leaves. This is a season of harvesting, of thanksgiving for the exuberance of spring and summer enjoyed, and the mixed feelings about the bleak winter days ahead. Autumn brings out the best in poets and songwriters of all traditions who have left us with some of the most moving poems of all time, tinged with bitter sweetness, nostalgia and a dose of melancholy.

The distinguished American poet, Emily Dickinson wrote:

Besides the autumn poets sing,
A few prosaic days
A little this side of the snow
And that side of the haze.

Perhaps a squirrel may remain
My sentiments to share –
Grant me, Oh Lord, a sunny mind –
Thy windy will to bear!

Equally lovely are the words of the American naturalist, John Burroughs (1837 – 1921):

How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.

And here is “Autumn Air”, a poem of longing in the fall, by the famed Chinese poet Li Bai (701-762) from the Tang dynasty:

The autumn air is clear,
The autumn moon is bright.
Fallen leaves gather and scatter,
The jackdaw perches and starts anew.
We think of each other – when will we meet?
This hour, this night, my feelings are hard.

Finally, let me share a beautiful folksong entitled “Autumn Cicada”. Originating from Taiwan, the song’s title makes references to the cicada as a symbolic messenger of autumn’s coming and its wistful melody perfectly evokes the feelings of longing and time’s passing.

Lyrics of Autumn Cicada (translated from the Chinese)

Listen to the call I make to the spring waters,
as I wait for the green leaves to turn yellow.
Who knows when autumn will come?
My heart grows heavy and restless
like the waves and the grass.

Now the flowers are turning red,
and the maples leaves are falling.
Spreading its wings,
a pair of swallow soars.
How can I bear the cold
with my wretched clothes?
After all, it is autumn.

Spring has gone away,
leaving only thoughts of autumn,
but autumn, too, will pass
and winter will come, and
all that is beautiful to behold
will be no more.
Oh, let not spring go in a hurry.
let not spring go in a hurry.

And now, the song – “Autumn Cicada”.

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