by John Greenleaf Whittier
It was late in mild October, and
the long autumnal rain
Had left the
summer harvest-fields all green with grass again;
frosts had fallen, leaving all the woodlands gay
the hues of
summer's rainbow or the meadow flowers of May.
Through a thin, dry mist, that morning, the sun rose
broad and red;
first a rayless disk of fire, he brightened as he sped;
Yet even his
noontide glory fell chastened and subdued
On the cornfields
orchards and softly pictured wood.
And all that quiet afternoon, slow sloping to the night,
He wove with
golden shuttle the haze with yellow light;
beeches, he glorified the hill;
And, beneath it, pond
and meadow lay
brighter, greener still.
And shouting boys in woodland haunts caught glimpses
of that sky,
Flecked by the many-tinted leaves, and laughed, they
knew not why;
And schoolgirls, gay with aster-flowers, beside the meadow
the glow of autumn with the sunshine of sweet looks.
From spire and barn looked westerly the patient weathercocks;
the birches on the hill stood motionless as rocks.
sound was in the
woodlands save the squirrel's dropping shell,
among the boughs, low rustling as they fell.
The summer grains were harvested; the stubble-fields
June winds rolled, in light and shade, the pale green
waves of rye;
But still, on gentle hill-slopes, in valleys fringed
ungathered, bleaching in the sun, the heavy corn crop
Bent low by autumn's wind and rain, through husks that,
dry and sear,
Unfolded from their ripened charge, shone out the yellow
the turnip lay concealed in many a verdant fold,
glistened in the
slanting light the pumpkin's sphere of gold.
There wrought the busy harvester, and many a creaking
to the long barn-floor its load of husk and grain;
broad and red,
as when he rose, the sun sank down at last,
a merry guest's
farewell the day in brightness passed.
And lo! as through the western pines, on meadow, stream,
Flamed the red radiance of a sky set all afire beyond,
the eastern sea-bluffs a milder glory shone,
sunset and the
moonrise were mingled into one!
As thus into the quiet night the twilight lapsed away,
And deeper in
the brightening moon the tranquil shadows lay,
a brown old
farmhouse and hamlet without name,
Their milking and
done, the merry huskers came.
Swung o'er the heaped-up harvest, from pitchforks in
dimly down the lanterns on the pleasant scene below,
The glowing pile
of husks behind, the golden ears before,
eyes and busy
hands and brown cheeks glimmering o'er.
Half hidden in a quiet nook, serene of look and heart,
old times over, the old men sat apart;
While up and down
pile, or nestling in its shade,
At hide-and-seek, with
shout, the happy children played.
Urged by the good host's daughter, a maiden young and
light her sweet blue eyes and pride of soft brown hair,
The master of
the village school, sleek of hair and smooth of tongue,
To the quaint
tune of some old psalm, a husking-ballad sung.
NOTES AND QUESTIONS
About the Author
JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) was born near the
Haverhill, Massachusetts, not far from Hawthorne's birthplace.
very little opportunity for education beyond what the
afforded, for his parents were too poor to send him away
His two years' attendance at Haverhill Academy was paid
for by his own
work at making ladies' slippers for twenty-five cents
a pair. He began
writing verses almost as soon as he learned to write
at all, but his
father discouraged this ambition as frivolous, saying
it would never
give him bread. His family were Quakers, sturdy of stature
character. He is called "The Quaker Poet."
Whittier led the life of a New England farm boy, used
to hard work
and few pleasures. His library consisted of practically
one book, the
family Bible. Later, a copy of Burns's poems was loaned
to him by
the district schoolmaster. Like Burns he had great sympathy
humble and the poor. In his poems. Whittier described
the scenes and
told the legends of his own locality. Home Ballads and
Songs of Labor,
in which "The Huskers" and "The Corn-Song" appear,
are among his most
widely read books. They picture country life and the
scenes of the
simple occupations common in his part of the country.
intensely patriotic and religious by nature. His happiness
lay in his
association with his friends, with children, animals,
and the outdoor
In these respects he was like Bryant, a man who found
simple things. Like Bryant, also, he was interested in
Any injustice to the poor he opposed passionately. He
wrote many poems
in protest against slavery. He wrote, also, ballads of
England history, and some of our most beautiful religious
from his pen. His life was less filled with business
cares than that
of Bryant, but it was equally full of interests that
made him happy
and source of help and joy to others.
- What is the difference between the sunshine
and that of May?
- Why does it seem to the poet
as if the sun wove
with golden shuttle the yellow haze?
- What had
the frost done that
made the woodlands gay?
- What words in the second
stanza make you
feel that the wood was some distance away?
whom does "he" in the
third stanza refer?
- What words in the second stanza
the word "haze" in the third stanza?
- What gave the beeches the
appearance of being painted?
- What are the colors
of the woods
and sky in this poem? What colors are they in the
Violet"? Find the words and phrases that tell
you. How many times, in
this poem, does the poet use the words golden and
yellow, or speak of
things that suggest these colors?
- What do you
think was the reason
the boys laughed when they looked up to the sky?
- What "summer
grain" is mentioned in line 11, page 304?
- What crop was still
- Where were the harvesters at work?
- What was it
that set the sky "all afire beyond"?
- Where did the husking take
place? What tells you this?
- How did the
old men spend the
- What things that we eat depend on
the work of the
- Tell what you can about the author.
- Find in the
Glossary the meaning of: shuttle; spire;
sear; verdant; wain; lapsed.
- Pronounce: autumnal; chastened; beneath;
radiance; tranquil; mow; serene; psalm.
Phrases for Study
hues of summer's rainbow, patient weathercocks, rayless
disk of fire,
ripened charge, brightened as he sped; sphere of gold,
chastened, milder glory shone, softly pictured wood,
mingled into one,
slow sloping to the night, hamlet without name, glorified
golden ears before, sunshine of sweet looks, glimmering
westerly, serene of look and heart.