Monday, October 6, 2014

Anne Elliot and Autumn

A Clerk of Oxford posted this scene from my favorite Jane Austen novel, Persuasion:

Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn, that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness, that season which has drawn from every poet, worthy of being read, some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling. She occupied her mind as much as possible in such-like musings and quotations; but it was not possible, that when within reach of Captain Wentworth's conversation with either of the Miss Musgroves, she should not try to hear it...

What she hears of Captain Wentworth and Louisa Musgroves' conversation reminds her of how she had disappointed Wentworth years ago when she broke off their engagement. He has indicated to her that he thinks her inconstant and unfaithful, too easily persuaded, and Louisa Musgrove gives evidence that she would not be persuaded.

Anne could not immediately fall into a quotation again. The sweet scenes of autumn were for a while put by, unless some tender sonnet, fraught with the apt analogy of the declining year, with declining happiness, and the images of youth and hope, and spring, all gone together, blessed her memory.

Perhaps Anne thought of James Thomson's The Seasons and its passages on Autumn before she heard Wentworth's delight in Louisa's constancy:

Hence from the busy joy-resounding fields,
In cheerful error let us tread the maze
Of Autumn unconfined; and taste, revived,
The breath of orchard big with bending fruit.
Obedient to the breeze and beating ray,
From the deep-loaded bough a mellow shower
Incessant melts away. The juicy pear
Lies in a soft profusion scattered round.
A various sweetness swells the gentle race,
By Nature’s all-refining hand prepared,
Of tempered sun, and water, earth, and air,
In ever-changing compositions mixed.
Such, falling frequent through the chiller night,
The fragrant stores, the wide-projected heaps
Of apples, which the lusty-handed year
Innumerous o’er the blushing orchard shakes.

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