“Autumn” is a free verse poem by T. E. Hulme that was first published in 1908. The poem is a short and simple description of the autumn season. It describes the coldness of the autumn night and the speaker’s encounter with the moon. The speaker sees the moon leaning over a hedge like a red-faced farmer and nods to it. The poem ends with the speaker noticing the wistful stars with white faces like town children.
By T. E. Hulme
A touch of cold in the Autumn night—
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.
T. E. Hulme’s ‘Autumn’ is a succinct piece of free verse that encapsulates the essence of the autumn season in a few vivid strokes. Published in 1908, the poem transports the reader to a crisp autumn night, drawing attention to the sensory experience of the cold. It paints a rustic scene where the moon is personified as a red-faced farmer leaning over a hedge—an image that conjures up the warmth and familiarity of rural life. The speaker acknowledges the moon with a nod, an interaction that suggests a moment of connection amid the solitude of the night. As the poem closes, the stars are likened to wistful town children, their pale faces reflecting a longing or pensiveness. This juxtaposition of the moon’s ruddy warmth with the stars’ wistful pallor deepens the autumnal mood, leaving the reader with an impression of the season’s poignant beauty.
Line 1: A touch of cold in the Autumn night—
This opening line sets the scene with a sensory detail—a “touch of cold”—immediately placing the reader in the midst of an autumn night. The word “touch” suggests a subtle yet perceptible chill, characteristic of autumn, that one might feel against the skin. The dash at the end of the line hangs as a pause, creating a sense of anticipation for what this cold night will reveal.
Line 2: I walked abroad,
The second line continues from the first, with the speaker venturing outside, signified by “I walked abroad.” The use of “abroad” here gives a sense of walking out in the open, under the night sky, rather than just stepping out of a door. It conveys a feeling of openness and exposure to the elements.
Line 3: And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
In this line, the moon is introduced as a tangible presence in the night sky. Described as “ruddy,” it has a reddish, warm glow, contrasting with the cold of the night. The personification of the moon leaning over a hedge evokes a bucolic image of a farmer inspecting his fields, adding a touch of pastoral life to the scene.
Line 4: Like a red-faced farmer.
The simile comparing the moon to a “red-faced farmer” further humanizes the celestial body, bringing the vastness of the night sky down to earth. The imagery suggests a sense of familiarity and companionship in the solitary setting of the night.
Line 5: I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
Here, the speaker interacts with the moon, acknowledging its presence with a nod. This human-like interaction with the moon indicates a sense of respect or recognition of nature’s embodiment in the moon, yet there is no halting of movement or direct conversation, implying an acceptance of the natural order and one’s place within it.
Line 6: And round about were the wistful stars
This line introduces the stars, which are described as “wistful.” The term carries connotations of yearning or longing, suggesting that the stars hold a desire or a sense of melancholy, perhaps for the departing warmth as winter approaches.
Line 7: With white faces like town children.
The poem concludes with a powerful image, likening the stars to “town children” with “white faces.” This could reflect a stark contrast to the ruddy moon, indicating innocence or a lack of exposure to the harsher elements, much like children in a town who are separated from nature’s rawness. It also could symbolize the urban and rural divide, the stars as pale observers of the world below, similar to children looking out at the world with curiosity and wonder.
After reading T.E. Hulme’s “Autumn,” poem I am enveloped in a sense of reflective calm. The poem’s vivid imagery brings to life the crisp, serene atmosphere of an autumn night. I find myself moved by the personification of the moon as a red-faced farmer, which evokes a feeling of warmth and rustic charm amidst the cold. There’s also a poignant contrast when the stars are likened to wistful town children, adding a layer of gentle melancholy to the scene. This fleeting snapshot of autumn stirs a mix of nostalgia and tranquility within me, as it beautifully captures the quiet, transient moments that season brings.