October

O golden month! How high thy gold is heaped!
The yellow birch-leaves shine like bright coins strung
On wands; the chestnut’s yellow pennons tongue
To every wind its harvest challenge. Steeped
In yellow, still lie fields where wheat was reaped;
And yellow still the corn sheaves, stacked among
The yellow gourds, which from the earth have wrung
Her utmost gold. To highest boughs have leaped
The purple grape, last thing to ripen, late
By very reason of its precious cost.
O Heart, remember, vintages are lost
If grapes do not for freezing night-dews wait.
Think, while thou sunnest thyself in Joy’s estate,
Mayhap thou canst not ripen without frost!

Helen Hunt Jackson was a 19th century American author and poet, and a friend of Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes.  She is best known as a champion of the rights of dispossessed Native American peoples about whom she wrote what she felt was her best book, A Century of Dishonor, which is still in print.  Amongst her poems were twelve Calendar Sonnets, and this is October.  It sounds familiar, despite our being more than a hundred years and 5000 miles apart, although the final lines seem more about the human condition than the weather.

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