Glorious October!

Autumn is the best season of the year, with its multiple colours and scents. And October is the best month.

“October is the treasurer of the year,
And all the months pay bounty to her store;
The fields and orchards still their tribute bear,
And fill her brimming coffers more and more.
But she, with youthful lavishness,
Spends all her wealth in gaudy dress,
And decks herself in garments bold
Of scarlet, purple, red, and gold.
She heedeth not how swift the hours fly,
But smiles and sings her happy life along;
She only sees above a shining sky;
She only hears the breezes’ voice in song.
Her garments trail the woodlands through,
And gather pearls of early dew
That sparkle, till the roguish Sun
Creeps up and steals them every one.
But what cares she that jewels should be lost,
When all of Nature’s bounteous wealth is hers?
Though princely fortunes may have been their cost,
Not one regret her calm demeanor stirs.
Whole-hearted, happy, careless, free,
She lives her life out joyously,
Nor cares when Frost stalks o’er her way
And turns her auburn locks to gray.”

Grimshaw “October” by the American poet, novelist, and playwright Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), born in Dayton, Ohio, to parents who had been enslaved in Kentucky before the American Civil War. Dunbar was one the first influential black poets in American literature, enjoying his greatest popularity in the early 20th century after the publication of collections such as Majors and Minors and Lyrics of Lowly Life.

During a relatively short career, Dunbar wrote a dozen books of poetry, four books of short stories, four novels, lyrics for a musical, and a play. His work is known for its colourful language and conversational tone. He became the first African-American poet to earn national distinction and acceptance. In its obituary on 10 February 1906, The New York Times called him “a true singer of the people.”

The painting October Gold (1885) is by that unmistakable purveyor of Victorian nostalgia, John Atkinson Grimshaw.


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