Poem: “A Corymbus For Autumn”

A Corymbus For Autumn

Hearken my chant, ’tis
As a Bacchante’s,
A grape-spurt, a vine-splash, a tossed tress, flown vaunt ’tis!
Suffer my singing,
Gipsy of Seasons, ere thou go winging;
Ere Winter throws
His slaking snows
In thy feasting-flagon’s impurpurate glows!
The sopped sun–toper as ever drank hard –
Stares foolish, hazed,
Rubicund, dazed,
Totty with thine October tankard.
Tanned maiden! with cheeks like apples russet,
And breast a brown agaric faint-flushing at tip,
And a mouth too red for the moon to buss it,
But her cheek unvow its vestalship;
Thy mists enclip
Her steel-clear circuit illuminous,
Until it crust
With the glorious gules of a glowing rust.
Far other saw we, other indeed,
The crescent moon, in the May-days dead,
Fly up with its slender white wings spread
Out of its nest in the sea’s waved mead!
How are the veins of thee, Autumn, laden?
Umbered juices,
And pulped oozes
Pappy out of the cherry-bruises,
Froth the veins of thee, wild, wild maiden!
With hair that musters
In globed clusters,
In tumbling clusters, like swarthy grapes,
Round thy brow and thine ears o’ershaden;
With the burning darkness of eyes like pansies,
Like velvet pansies
Wherethrough escapes
The splendid might of thy conflagrate fancies;
With robe gold-tawny not hiding the shapes
Of the feet whereunto it falleth down,
Thy naked feet unsandalled;
With robe gold-tawny that does not veil
Feet where the red
Is meshed in the brown,
Like a rubied sun in a Venice-sail.

The wassailous heart of the Year is thine!
His Bacchic fingers disentwine
His coronal
At thy festival;
His revelling fingers disentwine
Leaf, flower, and all,
And let them fall
Blossom and all in thy wavering wine.
The Summer looks out from her brazen tower,
Through the flashing bars of July,
Waiting thy ripened golden shower;
Whereof there cometh, with sandals fleet,
The North-west flying viewlessly,
With a sword to sheer, and untameable feet,
And the gorgon-head of the Winter shown
To stiffen the gazing earth as stone.

In crystal Heaven’s magic sphere
Poised in the palm of thy fervid hand,
Thou seest the enchanted shows appear
That stain Favonian firmament;
Richer than ever the Occident
Gave up to bygone Summer’s wand.
Day’s dying dragon lies drooping his crest,
Panting red pants into the West.
Or the butterfly sunset claps its wings
With flitter alit on the swinging blossom,
The gusty blossom, that tosses and swings,
Of the sea with its blown and ruffled bosom;
Its ruffled bosom wherethrough the wind sings
Till the crisped petals are loosened and strown
Overblown, on the sand;
Shed, curling as dead
Rose-leaves curl, on the flecked strand.
Or higher, holier, saintlier when, as now,
All nature sacerdotal seems, and thou.
The calm hour strikes on yon golden gong,
In tones of floating and mellow light
A spreading summons to even-song:
See how there
The cowled night
Kneels on the Eastern sanctuary-stair.
What is this feel of incense everywhere?
Clings it round folds of the blanch-amiced clouds,
Upwafted by the solemn thurifer,
The mighty spirit unknown,
That swingeth the slow earth before the embannered
Or is’t the Season under all these shrouds
Of light, and sense, and silence, makes her known
A presence everywhere,
An inarticulate prayer,
A hand on the soothed tresses of the air?
But there is one hour scant
Of this Titanian, primal liturgy;
As there is but one hour for me and thee,
Autumn, for thee and thine hierophant,
Of this grave ending chant.
Round the earth still and stark
Heaven’s death-lights kindle, yellow spark by spark,
Beneath the dreadful catafalque of the dark.

And I had ended there:
But a great wind blew all the stars to flare,
And cried, ‘I sweep the path before the moon!
Tarry ye now the coming of the moon,
For she is coming soon;’
Then died before the coming of the moon.
And she came forth upon the trepidant air,
In vesture unimagined-fair,
Woven as woof of flag-lilies;
And curdled as of flag-lilies
The vapour at the feet of her,
And a haze about her tinged in fainter wise.
As if she had trodden the stars in press,
Till the gold wine spurted over her dress,
Till the gold wine gushed out round her feet;
Spouted over her stained wear,
And bubbled in golden froth at her feet,
And hung like a whirlpool’s mist round her.
Still, mighty Season, do I see’t,
Thy sway is still majestical!
Thou hold’st of God, by title sure,
Thine indefeasible investiture,
And that right round thy locks are native to;
The heavens upon thy brow imperial,
This huge terrene thy ball,
And o’er thy shoulders thrown wide air’s depending pall.
What if thine earth be blear and bleak of hue?
Still, still the skies are sweet!
Still, Season, still thou hast thy triumphs there!
How have I, unaware,
Forgetful of my strain inaugural,
Cleft the great rondure of thy reign complete,
Yielding thee half, who hast indeed the all?
I will not think thy sovereignty begun
But with the shepherd sun
That washes in the sea the stars’ gold fleeces
Or that with day it ceases,
Who sets his burning lips to the salt brine,
And purples it to wine;
While I behold how ermined Artemis
Ordained weed must wear,
And toil thy business;
Who witness am of her,
Her too in autumn turned a vintager;
And, laden with its lamped clusters bright,
The fiery-fruited vineyard of this night.

Francis Thompson

Francis Thompson was born in England to a respectable Catholic family in 1859. He studied to become a priest, but was sent home by the headmaster who declared that Francis was not cut out for the priesthood. Francis then tried to become a doctor. Instead he became an opium addict, destitute, and lived on the streets. Though homeless, he wrote poetry and sent it to a publisher. This was the turning point in his life. The publisher sent Francis to a clinic to sober up, and then to a monastery to convalesce where he wrote most of his poetry. Francis died in 1907.