Vagabond Song: Why Poetry, Autumn, and Wanderlust Are 3 Peas in a Pod

A Vagabond Song by Bliss Carman
There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood—
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.
The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry 
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.
There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her, 
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls each vagabond by name.

This poem perfectly encapsulates the mood of autumn. The crispness of the air; the scent of fallen leaves and wood smoke and apple cider all mingled together; the very color of the world around me all seems to share this same tone. A quiet longing, a waiting for something, though you aren’t quite sure what that something is. Autumn is a season of change, a season of endings, and thus is a season when one begins to wonder what comes next.

Autumn is a time of wanderlust. That longing one feels for something just out of reach is the same sort of feeling that makes one restless. The promise of possibility and the ending which marks a new beginning prepares the mind to want to travel. What better time to start a journey than the moment when everything else is coming to a close? When better to set off on adventure than when the world is quiet and cool?

Perhaps you think I’m crazy. Perhaps October winds have never caught your breath and made your heart throb. But every time the air turns cold, I hear a call from the hills, as Carman describes. I hear fairies beckoning me to the mountains, stirring up whatever gypsy blood flows through my soul. The changing leaves and cries of geese heading south make my feet itch. Every year around this time, I find myself wishing I could pack a small satchel and set off into the wilderness without caring where I’m headed. I just want to go as far as I can and see just how many miles my feet will take me (never-mind that I wouldn’t last two days in the woods alone).

All poets, I am convinced, feel the call. They cannot help it. Nature has always whispered to the poet’s soul, and autumn is the time when nature is at her most poetic. In fact, autumn is the turn of nature’s poem. It is the moment when the narrative of the year shifts, when the first two stanzas of spring and summer reach their peak, and the action falls. It is the introduction to the end of  the work, the moment that makes you sit up and pay attention; when the tone changes, the mood shifts, and meaning is there beneath the surface, just out of grasp. Poets can’t help but love autumn, because the longing of wanderers is longing poets feel when they pick up their pen to write. In autumn air, in the poet’s song, and in the wanderer’s step, there is one thing in common. A desire, deep-set, for something unknown and unseen. A call, to the mystery that has never been understood and probably never will be. Between the three, there is a shared understanding that sometimes it is better not to know.

So tell me. Is there something in October that stirs you?

 

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