It seems to be generally true that people in the autumn of life respond with sharpening attention to the annual coming of the autumn of the year. Such at least is my own experience and that of others with whom I have spoken. What might be called the incremental poignancy of the autumnal is neither surprising nor necessarily lugubrious, but it is somber and arresting. It demands its high seriousness. Keats wrote his famous “Ode to Autumn” when he was, I think, twenty-four years old. Can one imagine how much richer yet it might have been could he have written it at seventy-four? But of course for Keats twenty-four was autumn, and late autumn at that. He knew it. That is why he could say in another great poem that he had “been half in love with easeful death,” even as in this one he can eroticize Autumn herself as a woman in the willing oblivion of a narcotic sleep, death’s simulacrum:
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies….
Solvet sæclum in favilla: will dissolve the world in ashes,
Teste David cum Sibylla! as David testifies along with the Sibyl!]