A Walk, A Poem, and an Autumn Day’s Wonder

Take some time to fully appreciate the created beauty of autumn

Here in Wisconsin, fall has arrived, and it couldn’t be more beautiful. We have bright sunshine, and the trees are turning orange, crimson, and gold. Neighbors in jeans and sweatshirts are raking leaves, friends are having bonfires, and everyone is watching football. I love it.

I find autumn to be the best time of the year for a lot of things, but especially for simply taking a walk. Before my day at work begins, I usually head outside for a few minutes, and I love to enjoy the sunrise, the cool air, and the changing colors of the trees.

One of the best poems to have in your pocket on an autumn day’s walk is Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Hurrahing in Harvest.” It’s a perfect expression of gratitude for glorious fall weather.

Written in Hopkins’ alliterative style and piled high with images, the poem is his worshipful response to the beauty of a windy fall day. The poet is taking a walk, and as he looks upon the clouds, the fields, and the surrounding hills, his heart leaps with praise.

He begins by noting the beauty of the fields, filled with sheaves of grain (“stooks”), and he is mesmerized by the clouds moving through the skies:

Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?

In these lines, the poet can’t get over the intensity of the beauty. Has there ever been a lovelier day? The poem captures how we often feel when we take a walk on a sunny, blustery October day.

As the poet continues his walk, he feels as if God is speaking to him through the beauty of the clouds:

I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;
And, éyes, heárt, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?

How could anyone say “I love you” more powerfully to us than God says it on an autumn day?

Next, the poet notices the hills in the distance. Glorious in their autumn colors, they show God’s strength and beauty:

And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
Majestic—as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet!

Hopkins ends the poem by pointing out that this gorgeous landscape is always here, even when no one is watching; but when we come upon such a scene, recognizing it for what it is—evidence of the beauty and greatness of God—our hearts are lifted up in wonder and in praise:

These things, these things were here and but the beholder
Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.

Like Hopkins, when we enjoy the beauty of fall by simply slowing down, taking a walk, and noticing the beauty around us, we can find our hearts rearing wings and taking off, soaring into the heavens and praising the Creator.

Autumn, of all the times of the year, can fill us with this sense of wonder like nothing else.

image via Unsplash

Nathan Huffstutler

Nathan Huffstutler teaches college literature and writing in southern Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife and their three daughters. He has published essays, book reviews, and poetry, and he loves bookstores, nature, and wonder.

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