Theodore Roethke





The Coming of the Cold

1
The late peach yields a subtle musk,
The arbor is alive with fume
More heady than a field at dusk
When clover scents diminished wind.
The walker’s foot has scarcely room
Upon the orchard path, for skinned
and battered fruit has choked the grass.
The yield’s half down and half in air.
The plum drops pitch upon the ground,
And nostrils widen as they pass
The place where butternuts are found.
The wind shakes out the scent of pear.
Upon the field the scent is dry:
The dill bears up its acrid crown;
The dock, so garish to the eye,
Distills a pungence of its own.
And pumpkins sweat a bitter oil.
But soon cold rain and frost come in
To press pure fragrance to the soil;
The loose vine droops with hoar at dawn,
The riches of the air blow thin.

2
The ribs of leaves lie in the dust,
The beak of frost has picked the bough,
The briar bears its thorn, and drought
Has left its ravage on the field.
The season's wreckage lies about,
Late autumn fruit is rotted now.
All shade is lean, the antic branch
Jerks skyward at the touch of wind,
Dense trees no longer hold the light, 
The hedge and orchard grove are thinned.
The dank bark dries beneath the sun,
The last of harvesting is done.
All things are brought to barn and fold.
The oak leaves strain to be unbound,
The sky turns dark, the year grows old,
The buds draw in before the cold.

3
The small brook dies within its bed;
The stem that holds the bee is prone;
Old hedgerows keep the leaves; the phlox,
That late autumnal bloom, is dead.
All summer green is now undone:
The hills are grey, the trees are bare,
The mould upon the branch is dry,
The fields are harsh and bare, the rocks
Gleam sharply on the narrow sight.
The land is desolate, the sun
No longer gilds the scene at noon;
Winds gather in the north and blow
Bleak clouds across the heavy sky,
And frost is marrow-cold, and soon
Winds bring a fine and bitter snow.


spoken = David Juda