Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Blue October

by Heidi Hamburg

A long time ago, when I was a girl of twenty, I read Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan. I remember feeling sad as I approached the end of the book because of what was happening in the story, and simply because something beautiful was ending too soon.

Except that it wasn’t. There, on the page after the end of the novel, was a gift: this poem. It has been with me ever since.

It comes back to me each year when the Bear Hills across the river turn misty in the mornings, when the red of maples and the gold of poplars light torches among the dark pines, when the frost takes the morning glories that climb the south side of the house, and turns them into tattered black handkerchiefs.

I loved it the first time I read it. Decades later, I still do.

Now Blue October

Now blue October, smoky in the sun,
Must end the long, sweet summer of the heart.

The last brief visit of the birds is done;
They sing the autumn songs before they part.
Listen, how lovely—there’s the thrush we heard
When June was small with roses, and the bending
Blossom of branches covered nest and bird,

Singing the summer in, summer unending—
Give me your hand once more before the night;
See how the meadows darken with the frost,
How fades the green that was the summer’s light.
Beauty is only altered, never lost,
And love, before the cold November rain,
Will make its summer in the heart again.

Robert Nathan (1894-1985)

Heidi Hamburg


  1. Simply gorgeous, Heidi. I've never read this poem before, and now I won't forget it. Thank you.

  2. Thank you, Jennie and Anne. Portrait of Jennie is a wonderful novel, too. It's a paranormal love story of the gentler sort.

  3. So evocative, Heidi. Thanks for sharing. I'll save that one.

  4. A favorite of mine for more than a half-century. You younger folks will find that it means more to you as the years pass by.