Saturday, September 1, 2012


From this 1825 edition of James Thomson's The Seasons
White rabbits and all that. Welcoming in Autumn with a poem or two from Helen Hunt Jackson.

"September", Helen Hunt Jackson, Scribner's Monthly, September 1879
I think Helen Hunt Jackson needs to be acknowledged as the poet laureate of September. The poem above, published in Scribner's Monthly in September 1879*, was her most famous tribute to this time of year. A quick search reveals that it to have been a poem learned by generations of American schoolchildren. An article in The Perry Magazine on "Nature in the Classroom" in 1898 declared:
But Jackson - friend of Emily Dickinson (interesting style similarities, no?) and campaigner for Native American rights (biography here) - had already made her mark on the season. She published "September Woods" in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in 1866 and another poem entitled "September" in the Atlantic in 1876. Then again, she wasn't alone. As Susan Fenimore Cooper (James' daughter) put it in her delightful poetry collection The Rhyme and Reason of Country Life in 1855: "Autumn is a favorite season with American poets; they have taken great delight in singing the high-toned magnificence of the season, as well as that delicacy and sweetness of aspect which so often adds an exquisite charm to the brilliancy of autumnal beauty under our native skies." And we'll be hearing more from that particular Cooper in a little while.

* Fun fact: also published in that issue of Scribner's: Henry James, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Emma Lazarus, Kate Field. Table of contents here.

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