I have, this year, spent the fall for the first time in my life in that place where the northern birds fly for the winter. Cool, crisp mornings are accompanied by the truly boisterous sounds of these arrivals announcing their presence day after day after day, making it seem as though that harvest moon and its associated celebrations are still some ways off, as the calendar flies. But indeed, it is that time, for each of us, wherever we are, to take stock of our own particular harvests of the year and give thanks to a god, to the universe, to the people around us as we settle in to wait for winter’s quiet and the certain, hopeful, coming spring.
The Harvest Moon
It is the Harvest Moon! On gilded vanes
And roofs of villages, on woodland crests
And their aerial neighborhoods of nests
Deserted, on the curtained window-panes
Of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes
And harvest-fields, its mystic splendor rests!
Gone are the birds that were our summer guests,
With the last sheaves return the laboring wains!
All things are symbols: the external shows
Of Nature have their image in the mind,
As flowers and fruits and falling of the leaves;
The song-birds leave us at the summer’s close,
Only the empty nests are left behind,
And pipings of the quail among the sheaves.
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Photo by Admitter, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Longfellow poem is in the public domain.
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How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish
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