Autumn Song

Autumn Song

 By W. H. Auden

Now the leaves are falling fast,
Nurse’s flowers will not last,
Nurses to their graves are gone,
But the prams go rolling on.

Whispering neighbours left and right
Daunt us from our true delight,
Able hands are forced to freeze
Derelict on lonely knees.

Close behind us on our track,
Dead in hundreds cry Alack,
Arms raised stiffly to reprove
In false attitudes of love.

Scrawny through a plundered wood,
Trolls run scolding for their food,
Owl and nightingale are dumb,
And the angel will not come.

Clear, unscaleable, ahead
Rise the Mountains of Instead,
From whose cold cascading streams
None may drink except in dreams.

Summary of Autumn Song

  • Popularity of “Autumn Song”: “Autumn Song” by Wystan Hugh Auden, a prolific Anglo-American poet, is a descriptive poetic piece. It first appeared way back in 1936. The poem speaks about the arrival of the autumn season. It beautifully sheds light on how life takes a dramatic turn when this season knocks at our doorstep. To make this poem worth reading, the poet has inserted various poetic elements and universal thematic strands.
  • “Autumn Song” As a Representation of Sadness: The poem centres around the autumn season, an epitome of sadness and death. It begins as the poet states how it brings noticeable changes to the world. With its arrival, leaves from the trees begin to fall, and flowers start to die. After describing its harmful impacts on the environment, he details how it affects our lives. Our beloved nurses also die, but children continue to be born, implying the cyclical nature of life and death follows the same pattern. Similarly, the jocund company of the neighbourhood also becomes a rare moment. Everyone stands on the same track from life to end; there is no other path to follow. It makes other creatures suffer as well. They too become dumb, lifeless, and desperate. Even angles refuse to come to the earth, let alone the creatures. One can see hope, light, and happiness only in dreams.
  • Major Themes in “Autumn Song”: The transience of life, death, and impacts of the autumn season are the major themes of the poem. Throughout the poem, the speaker tries to paint the bleak, dark, and heart-wrenching realities one witnesses on the arrival of this Everything on the earth undergoes unexpected changes; it brings disasters to the world. First, the vibrant colours of the ground begin to disappear; the leaves and flowers start to die, and later human beings also face the same fate. Not only humans, other creatures, too, become its prey. Even their colourful lives turn into something dark and painstaking. To create a more powerful impact of this season, the speaker states that even the angels disappear, and the dead seems close behind the living.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Autumn Song”

literary devices are powerful elements used to convey the writer’s unique ideas appealingly. W.H. Auden has used some literary devices in the poem to make it deep. The analysis of the devices used in the poem is as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /e/ in “Nurses to their graves are gone” and the sound of /o/ in “From whose cold cascading streams.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession such as the sound of /f/ in “forced to freeze” and the sound of /g/ in “graves are gone.”
  3. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. Auden has repeated the word “Nurses…” in the first stanza of the poem to emphasize the point such as;

“Now the leaves are falling fast,
Nurse’s flowers will not last,
Nurses to their graves are gone.”

  1. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /t/ in “Daunt us from our true delight” and the sound of /r/ in “Able hands are forced to freeze.”
  2. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

Whispering neighbours left and right
Daunt us from our true delight,
Able hands are forced to freeze
Derelict on lonely knees.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. W. H. Auden has used imagery in this poem such as “Able hands are forced to freeze”, “Dead in hundreds cry Alack” and “Nurse’s flowers will not last.”
  2. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. “Prams go rolling on” symbolizes the cycle of life.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Autumn Song”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. W. H Auden has used end rhyme in this poem such as “streams/dreams”, “ahead/instead” and “wood/food.”
  2. Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here each stanza is quatrain.
  1. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows AABB rhyme Scheme and this pattern continues until the end.
  2. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are five stanzas in this poem with each comprising four lines.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful while talking about the drastic changes the world witnessed during the shift of weather.

“Now the leaves are falling fast,
Nurse’s flowers will not last,
Nurses to their graves are gone,
But the prams go rolling on.”