The anonymous author of this piece muses on the season he thinks isn’t really appreciated enough:
St. Nicholas for September prints a number of brief essays
by boys and girls, written in a prize competition, upon the
theme, “My Favorite Season—and Why.” Their excellence
consists in their spontaneity and in their natural, unsophisti-
cated analysis of their delight in the out-of-doors life.
The contributions are none the worse that they betray no
inkling of a reminiscence of Thomson’s “Seasons.” But
among those deemed worthy of the prizes there is none,
if we except one, that sings the glories of Indian summer,
which betrays a partiality for autumn.
This predilection for one of the other three seasons is
characteristic not alone of children, but of their elders.
Autumn is unquestionably the least spectacular season.
Spring appeals to the sense of novelty, to the expectation
of release from confinement, to the pleasures of hope.
With women, it is almost universally the favorite. To
them the earth’s “divine renewal” has a symbolical meaning
which “mere man” cannot wholly perceive. If, in the spring,
the young man’s fancy proverbially turns to thoughts of
love, it turns thereto “lightly,” almost casually, and not
improbably because the young man has a touch of spring
To the athletic temperament, summer is alluring. The
sense of untrammelled freedom in the out-of-doors,
the escape from school tasks, the vacation from business,
or the unalloyed delight in sport and exercise find in
summer their fittest opportunity.
On the other hand, winter has a double claim. The
aesthetic charm of snow and ice, with their zestful
sports, tells in its favor. Winter, moreover, carries
for the children the lure of Yuletide festivities, and
for their elders the pleasant sense of shut-in isolation
and family solidarity peculiar to the open hearth.
But it must not be forgotten that each season has the
defects of its qualities. Spring, especially the early
spring, in varium et mutabile semper. Then you can
never tell what a day may bring forth. The one thing
certain is that it is dangerous to let the fire in the
furnace go out.
Neither the ground nor the temperature affords
occasion for the hardy sports of winter, nor the
vigorous out-of-doors existence that summer
The illness that mortal flesh is heir to is always
lurking about the turn of the year, and every
schoolmaster will bear witness that childhood’s
epidemics usually cluster around the traditional
The joys of summer are often purchased at a heavy
cost. The conscious effort after bodily comfort
is incessant. To speak of heat and humidity and dust
is superfluous, but every one has sympathized with
Sidney Smith, who “found there was nothing left for
it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.”
But the discomforts of wintertime are worse. Then, if
ever, one agrees with Mr. Squeers in his verdict that
“natur is a rum ‘un.” The white veil of snow which has
so often been idealized means weeks of slush. The
wizard architecture of Jack Frost means frozen water
pipes and plumbers’ bills, not to mention the colds
and coughs and influenza that hold revel.
To the eye of experience, therefore, the fall of the year
may rightly have a claim as the most auspicious season.
No greater libel was ever uttered than the allegation that
the closing days of November, the “saddest of the year,”
are fairly typical of autumn. It is more than half due to
the prejudice of the poets that the “season of mists and
mellow fruitfulness” bears so bad a name among its fellows.
Whenever a rider of Pegasus feels lachrymose, he is almost
sure to work in some slander on the autumn. Thus Tennyson
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart and gather to the eyes
In looking on the happy autumn fields.
No wonder that he confessed he knew “not what they mean.”
Here in autumn, is found the even tenor of all the year
as summer heat melts imperceptibly into the invigorating
charm of cooler days. The harvests are all but gathered in.
The grapes and apples and nuts presage a cheer that never
attaches to the precarious peach crop. Even with its slow
progress towards winter, the autumn is prodigal of gifts:
When the frost is on the pumpkin.
And the corn is in the shock.
As one grows in years, performance and not promise
takes an added value. It is broad-shouldered Ceres, with
her lap full of good things, not the willowy and changeable
“Aprille with his shoures soote,” that challenges our regard.
We come to dread the sudden change and climatic
extremes. “Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven doth
shine” for us to remain quite unblinded by his rays. But
in the clear light of the hunter’s moon we see things as they
~ Unsigned, “A Word for Autumn,” The Nation, August 26, 1909.
~ A short collection of quotes and poems about autumn is here.