Poetry Sunday: To the Light of September by W.S. Merwin

So here we are at the penultimate day of August. The last eight months could be eight years considering all that has occurred during them. But as the old song says, "the days get shorter when you reach September." At least in most years it seems that way. Schools are back in session in September and then there are the holidays of October, November, and December. Time seems to fly, but we'll see if that holds true in this extraordinary year.

The beginning of September means that we are getting a bit closer to the halcyon days of fall. The quality of light begins to change and occasionally one can feel just a touch of freshness in the air that promises cooler days to come. August is ending here with temperatures around 100 degrees F; we'll take all the freshness and coolness we can get.

W.S. Merwin had an appreciation of this time of year. He knew all about the advent of somewhat cooler weather and especially the changing light of September. 

To the Light of September

by W.S. Merwin

When you are already here
you appear to be only
a name that tells of you
whether you are present or not

and for now it seems as though
you are still summer
still the high familiar
endless summer
yet with a glint
of bronze in the chill mornings
and the late yellow petals
of the mullein fluttering
on the stalks that lean
over their broken
shadows across the cracked ground

but they all know
that you have come
the seed heads of the sage
the whispering birds
with nowhere to hide you
to keep you for later

who fly with them

you who are neither
before nor after
you who arrive
with blue plums
that have fallen through the night

perfect in the dew


  1. Beautiful verse. Of course, all of this only applies in the northern hemisphere. The austral spring is about to begin as we embrace fall. Our temperatures have become very pleasant of late. Yesterday was 22 degrees - nigh on perfect. If I never experienced it higher ever again that would be fine with me,

    1. Yes, if the poem were written about the southern hemisphere it would be titled "To the Light of March!"

  2. The last weeks of August are always brutal here, and the arrival of September holds such promise, but September is generally just more and worse August. Still, I see some leaves falling, and we have our garden plants started.

    Wonderful poem.

    1. Yes, September brings the hope of relief but hope is generally about all. But Merwin's observation about the changing light does hold true even for us here in the subtropics.

  3. What a wonderful poem! We are having a respite with temps in the 80s and a respectable amount of moisture in the air. I am not fooled though because fall comes very late at my home and the dog days are yet to come. Still I anticipate!

    1. Still too little moisture and too much heat in the air here but, like you, I anticipate.

  4. We are starting to feel a chill in the air some mornings where I live in New York State. The light is becoming fall light, with a golden quality to it later in the morning and earlier in the afternoon each day. Yellow leaves are appearing on some black walnuts. For us, who don't have as harsh summers as you do, I hope that September lasts for many months. Of course, it won't.

    1. The September that you experience was most likely what Merwin had in mind when he wrote this.

  5. It is a lovely poem. It addresses September as I would like it to be, not necessarily the reality where I live.


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