Thoreau’s “Autumnal Tints”
Shortly before his death, Henry David Thoreau finished an extraordinary ode to autumn in his essay, “Autumnal Tints.” Enjoy the entire essay here - and read on for a few of its highlights, with Thoreau’s lovely prose laid out as poems for your reading pleasure.
October is the month of painted leaves.
Their rich glow now flashes round the world.
As fruits and leaves and the day itself
acquire a bright tint just before they fall,
so the year near its setting.
October is its sunset sky;
November the later twilight.
It is pleasant to walk over the beds
of these fresh, crisp, and rustling leaves.
How beautifully they go to their graves!
How gently lay themselves down
and turn to mould!
Painted of a thousand hues, and fit
to make the beds of us living.
So they troop to their last resting place,
light and frisky. They put on no weeds,
but merrily they go scampering over the earth,
selecting the spot,
choosing a lot,
ordering no iron fence…
How many flutterings
before they rest quietly in their graves!
They that soared so loftily, how contentedly
they return to dust again, and are laid low,
resigned to lie and decay at the foot of the tree,
and afford nourishment to new generations of their kind,
as well as to flutter on high!
They teach us how to die.
Let your walks now be a little more adventurous;
ascend the hills. If, about the last of October,
you ascend any hill in the outskirts of our town,
and probably of yours, and look over the forest,
you may see well, what I have endeavored to describe.
All this you surely will see, and much more,
if you are prepared to see it,—if you look for it...
Objects are concealed from our view,
not so much because they are out of the course
of our visual ray as because we do not bring
our minds and eyes to bear on them;
for there is no power to see in the eye itself,
any more than in any other jelly.
We do not realize how far and widely,
or how near and narrowly, we are to look.
The greater part of the phenomena of Nature
are for this reason concealed from us all our lives.
The gardener sees only the gardener's garden…
There is just as much beauty
visible to us in the landscape
as we are prepared to appreciate,
—not a grain more.
+ Henry David Thoreau