On The First Day of September

The temperature is dropping, the days are shortening, the wind is heightening.  Morning mists cling.  The grass isn’t calling to be cut so often.  Routine, order, timetables – they’re all being restored.  Light cotton dresses are folded and put in the bottom drawer, sandals to the back of the cupboard, the straw hat releases a puff of dust as it’s pushed back to sleep at the top of the wardrobe.  We tilt towards change.  We see it in the morning dew as it sifts its droplets upon cobwebs, tracing their outline on the lawn.  We see it in the fattening apples on the bough, and in the rot setting into the fur covered blackberries on grasping brambles, and in smooth rumps of mushrooms huddling on a grassy verge.  We see it in children poured back into ill-fitting uniforms, roomy blazers that they won’t properly fill until next spring.  We smell it too, it in the coolness of the air, a life-giving freshness in the wind that opens up our stride.  And we sense it more urgent tones of voices and serious conversations. A matter-of-factness has replaced the expansive carelessness of summer, the business of life has returned.  For some, there is an uneasiness in the shift, an unwillingness to let go of the freedom summer gifted us.  But we must move towards the inevitable, and remember that autumn too has gifts.

And besides all of this, other changes loom and press upon us, adding to the weight of change – if we let them.  Political upheavals have been put on the long finger, until it now seems we have run out of fingers. I open an anthology of poetry and I’m immediately reminded: ’twas ever thus.  The problems of the world have always borne down, balanced by life affirming flames of hope.  Certainly, there have been times more uncertain, more foreboding than this.  On this day, eighty years ago, when England declared war on Germany, WH Auden recorded his thoughts of anxiety and fear in a long poem of ninestanzas, the first and last of which I share.

On the first day of September the mists may cling, but they always clear. Always.

September 1, 1939, W.H. Auden (abridged)

I sit in one of the dives

On Fifty-second Street

Uncertain and afraid

As the clever hopes expire

Of a low dishonest decade:

Waves of anger and fear

Circulate over the bright

And darkened lands of the earth,

Obsessing our private lives;

The unmentionable odour of death

Offends the September night.


Defenseless under the night

Our worlds in stupor lies;

Yet, dotted everywhere,

Ironic points of light

Flash out wherever the Just

Exhchange their messages:

May I, composed like them

of Eros and of dust

Beleagured by the same

Negation and despair

Show an affirming flame.


2 thoughts on “On The First Day of September

  1. Oh, love this. And you paint a picture of Autumn that I recognise. My heart is happy at this time of year as I got to start school in the waning summer of 1952. This past weekend I spent a couple of happy hours walking the lanes that led to that two room country school house and then helped myself to the remembered overhanging apples and damsons, available at a stretch across a hedge, on the way home. Happy days!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s