To paraphrase one of the late Rodney Dangerfield’s famous sayings: “[November] don’t get no respect.” Most people see it as a grim, gloomy month with no redeeming features except for the after-thought of Thanksgiving. But November is one of my favorite months because it’s not trying to prove anything. Caught between the showiness of October and the austere beauty of December, it’s messy, melancholy, and happily hard to pin down. November is a transitional month, igniting in a blaze of color and burning out into the starkness of winter. It doesn’t even have a proper name. Though November is the eleventh month of the year, its name comes from the Latin for nine (novem). Under the Roman calendar, November was the 9th month of the year. And the name stuck.
But November can inspire poetry! Here’s a sample:
Fall, Leaves, Fall
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.~ Emily Bronte
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.
With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.
The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next Spring.~ Elizabeth Coatsworth
In last year’s coat
she walked a november path
Saw the leaves pried from branches
Heard the scrabble of leaves on stone
Caught the sweet-sharp hint of show.
Then shivering, dug into deep pockets
Fingering the old pain
Hearing the clink of small sorrows. ~ M. Green
Unkempt, a month
gone to seed.
The Maple on the commons
shrugs off its leaves.
Above its balding crown,
Like the squirrels,
I retrieve what I hid
in the loamy layers
of summer.~ M. Green
Late in November, on a single night
Not even near to freezing, the ginkgo trees
That stand along the walk drop all their leaves
In one consent, and neither to rain nor wind
But as though to time alone: the gold and green
Leaves litter the lawn today, that yesterday
Had spread aloft their fluttering fans of light.
What signal from the stars? What senses took it in?
What in those wooden motives so decided
To strike their leaves, to down their leaves,
Rebellion or surrender? and if this
Can happen thus, what race shall be exempt?
What use to learn the lessons taught by time.
If a star at any time may tell us: now.~ Howard Nemerov
My November Guest
My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.
Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted grey
Is silver now with clinging mist.
The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.
Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise. ~Robert Frost