Poetry Sunday: The Death of the Flowers

What do you think of when you think of November? Gray days wrapped in mist and fog? Falling leaves? Crows calling from the tops of the pine trees? The end of the summer flowers? Well, William Cullen Bryant certainly seemed to think of the month in those rather gloomy terms.

The Death of the Flowers

     by William Cullen Bryant

The melancholy days have come the saddest of the year 
Of wailing winds and naked woods and meadows brown and sere; 
Heaped in the hollows of the grove the autumn leaves lie dead; 
They rustle to the eddying gust and to the rabbit's tread; 
The robin and the wren are flown and from the shrubs the jay 
And from the wood-top calls the crow through all the gloomy day.

Where are the flowers the fair young flowers that lately sprang and stood 
In brighter light and softer airs a beauteous sisterhood? 
Alas! they all are in their graves the gentle race of flowers 
Are lying in their lowly beds with the fair and good of ours.
The rain is falling where they lie but the cold November rain 
Calls not from out the gloomy earth the lovely ones again.
The wind-flower and the violet they perished long ago 
And the brier-rose and the orchis died amid the summer glow; 

But on the hill the goldenrod and the aster in the wood 
And the blue sunflower by the brook in autumn beauty stood 
Till fell the frost from the clear cold heaven as falls the plague on men 
And the brightness of their smile was gone from upland glade and glen.

And now when comes the calm mild day as still such days will come 
To call the squirrel and the bee from out their winter home; 
When the sound of dropping nuts is heard though all the trees are still 
And twinkle in the smoky light the waters of the rill 
The south wind searches for the flowers whose fragrance late he bore 
And sighs to find them in the wood and by the stream no more.

And then I think of one who in her youthful beauty died 
The fair meek blossom that grew up and faded by my side.
In the cold moist earth we laid her when the forests cast the leaf 
And we wept that one so lovely should have a life so brief: 
Yet not unmeet it was that one like that young friend of ours 
So gentle and so beautiful should perish with the flowers.


Well, here in the subtropics the frost is still a few weeks away and we still have flowers, but as I read this, I was reminded of that old Peter, Paul, and Mary song. Remember this?

A blast from the past for you on this first day of November. 


  1. Peter, Paul, and Mary were always a favorite of mine--I saw them in concert a few times and could probably sing along with every one of their songs:) But I don't have quite the same melancholy attitude towards November as Bryant does. I'm ready for a rest from garden work, and we know that at least the flowers will return come spring.

    1. In fact, November is one of my favorite months of the year. It contains my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, and although we do generally have plenty of mist and fog, it is one of the best months for getting things done in the garden here.

  2. In New England, November is quite gloomy, so I know what he means.

    1. Yes, I'm sure that is the scenario he was familiar with and the one he had in mind when he wrote the poem.


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