October's Bright Blue Weather

    O SUNS and skies and clouds of June,
    And flowers of June together,
    Ye cannot rival for one hour
    October's bright blue weather;

    When loud the bumblebee makes haste,
    Belated, thriftless vagrant,
    And goldenrod is dying fast,
    And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

    When gentians roll their fingers tight
    To save them for the morning,
    And chestnuts fall from satin burrs
    Without a sound of warning;

    When on the ground red apples lie
    In piles like jewels shining,
    And redder still on old stone walls
    Are leaves of woodbine twining;

    When all the lovely wayside things
    Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
    And in the fields still green and fair,
    Late aftermaths are growing;

    When springs run low, and on the brooks,
    In idle golden freighting,
    Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
    Of woods, for winter waiting;

    When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
    By twos and twos together,
    And count like misers, hour by hour,
    October's bright blue weather.

    O sun and skies and flowers of June,
    Count all your boasts together,
    Love loveth best of all the year
    October's bright blue weather.

    Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)

Helen Hunt Jackson wrote some fine lyric poetry, of which October's Bright Blue Weather is a good example. Ms. Jackson was a Massachusetts woman, so she had a slightly different point of view than we here in the southwest, where a clear October days see temperatures of 95 degrees F. This poem is about the merits of autumn, I agree with her, though: fall is the season for love.

The title is a wonderful, long, collection of sounds where “b”s all bump together, and bumble along unavoidably to the final word--“weather”-- a certain understanding of autumn sets in the moment one finishes the first stanza. Spring is no contender when it comes to the climate of fall where the “Belated, thriftless vagrant” lifts the poem to an eccentric, lyrical plane with its literal rhyme and goldenrod charm, as old favorites drop quietly.

Blue reverberated in gentians, azure flowered fall herbs, ornamental in shape; rare and beautiful wildflowers. “When red apples lie on the ground” becomes a dazzling poetic inversion as the poet invites the reader along to see: “When on the ground red apples lie’ like masses of gems bordered by well-worn crimson ivied walls. This old orchard amongst “lovely wayside things” with flights of gossamer offspring whilst “late aftermaths are growing.” in “idle golden freighting”. Friends gather in familiar places to pass pleasant times during “October's bright blue weather.”

Born on October 15, 1830, American poet Helen Hunt Jackson was a novelist, essayist, and Native American rights advocate and a schoolmate and lifelong friend of Emily Dickinson. After her first husband passed away in 1863 and her youngest died two years later she turned to writing. Preparing 400 articles for New York Independent she published a first volume of poetry Verses in 1870. Five years later Jackson relocated from the east coast to Colorado after her second marriage and began writing novels and continued her poetry. It her contact with the Native Americans in Colorado that prepared her as an unwavering advocate for Native American rights. She indicted the US federal government’s mistreatment of Native American in 1881 with the publication of her 476-page novel entitled A Century of Dishonor and followed up the publication of her book by sending copies of her disturbing studies to every member of the US Congress. Her book had a far-reaching effect on American politics, and for many years Ms. Jackson spread petitions and lobbied in support of American Indian causes. Traveling across country she challenged Theodore Roosevelt to a discussion of the condition of the Indians in America. After the hue and cry caused by A Century of Dishonor, Ms. Jackson was appointed a special commissioner to investigate conditions for the Indians in California.

Helen Hunt Jackson was an extremely prolific author and a great deal of her work has never been identified since much of it was published anonymously. Her best-known work of fiction is Ramona published three years after A Century of Dishonor in 1884. On the same subject, Ramona portrayed Jackson’s experiences in California to draw further attention to Indian Rights issues. Her opinions exerted a great influence in the late 19th century and today; her work is considered a part of that era’s Utopian movement. Jackson’s work is reprinted and excerpted in anthologies for the classroom; generally recognized to have been a major authority on public thinking about the treatment of Indians; her contributions are expected to establish new history and environmental instruction standards in educational courses.

Many educators require upper grade level students to memorize this piece of poetry as a part of a prescribed curriculum. The poem’s meaning is so strikingly descriptive several dictionaries use the phrase “October's bright blue weather “ as a phrase that exemplifies the word bluish, and it has even been made into a choral .


Helen Hunt Jackson:

Jackson, Helen. Poems. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1893.

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:

CST Approved.

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