Beloved, who art ever by my side, whose gracious presence, unseen by mortal eye, is ever, ever felt by me—dear Companion, ever youthful, ever lovely, come with me into the autumn woodland and let us converse together. See, my dear one, the bend of the river by which we wander has brought us within view of the wonderful tints of the hedgerow. If the summer has died it has left the autumn wealthy, and its treasury is a hedgerow. Here on this first day of autumn we see scattered in profusion the yellow gold and the mellow bronze of Nature’s cunning coinage. One might be tempted not to forsake the simile, but to anticipate the coming of those bleak days when the spendthrift winds—children of the autumn—rush down in riotous mirth to disperse with prodigal fingers the wealth of the season’s store, only that the tinge of melancholy which one feels when looking over the autumn landscape at the close of day quickly passes in view of the charms of mingled tints that meet the eye. The gracious warmth of green leaves whose edges are embroidered with bronze may be found when the hedgerow is sheltered by a sturdy ash from both wind and sun. Does not the full depth of rich colour at this place suggest June rather than October? but where the hedgerow bourgeons out beyond the line of straggling leafless trees, the signs of the month are apparent. Here, beneath the fringe of a dark cloud of russet leafage, shine a few stars of brilliant yellow—the Pleiades of the hedgerow—and light up the dimness with their mellow radiance. Further down the variegated forms of the crisp foliage become more fantastic. It requires no vivid imagination to see here and there a thick cluster of yellow grapes, through which the sun shines as they show themselves among the close network of vine leaves, and for a single moment one recalls a day spent in the South, where the grapes overhung the dusty roadway, and a muleteer paused to gather a splendid cluster. But quickly the vision passes, when our eyes wander on down the leafy path of autumn that was once the primrose path of spring; for there we see—is it an autumn hedgerow or an ocean on a night when the air is saturate with golden moonlight? All before our eyes is yellow—not a russet tinge appears among those gracious leaf-ripples that lose themselves in the distance. We wander along until the mellow line is broken by a forest of bramble. The purple berries are set like jewels among the golden leaves—the amethyst, the topaz, and here and there an exquisite emerald appear in profusion. Have we indeed reached the yellow strand of an ocean island where every pebble is a precious stone? Alas! a few steps onward, and we are face to face with the realities of autumn, for here the hedgerow has been exposed to the blast of a cold wind from the north, and we see nothing but a tangled network of gaunt branches. Weird skeleton fingers are stretched out at us on every side. Every leaf save one has been swept away, and as we stand looking at this desolate place—the visible boundary of autumn and winter—the sere solitary leaf flutters to the ground at our feet. The wind that comes from where the sun is setting in lurid glory sends a faint whisper through the woodland. We stand in the silence, and the touch of the spirit of autumn is upon us. We feel that every sound of the woodland is a sigh for its departed glories—the glories of blossom and leafage and days that have passed away. When the autumn winds have garnered their harvest from the boughs of the woodland, their aftermath begins in the meadow. But, my Beloved, neither you nor I can be altogether melancholy among the autumn hedgerows, for, through the signs of the year’s decay, the Hope that is in us seems to break more abundantly into bloom. We feel that death is not for all things that made life beautiful; Love and Faith and Truth are not among the spoils of Time. We are lifted up and strengthened by this reflection as we retrace our steps amid the slowly gathering shadows of the evening.


Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.

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