As autumn breezes blow away
The warmth of summer’s sun,
Then shortened is the light of day
When we had danced as one.
The prelude to the winter snow
Is sung by icy rain,
The rosiness of dawn’s soft glow
Usurped by cloudy stains.
The bitter winds strip off the trees
Their red and golden leaves.
Our tears met by the North wind freeze.
Trees barren, bleak, we grieve.
The winter days we pass in dreams
Of fragrances of spring,
Of murmurs of the waking stream
And songs the birds will sing.
Farewell, farewell, sweet summer days
That blessed us with birdsong,
Adieu, bright flames of autumn’s blaze,
Pray winter won’t be long.

 

Wandi Zhu is studying English language and literature at the University of British Columbia, and is a former professional classical Chinese dancer.


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15 Responses

  1. Mark Stone

    Wandi, Hello.

    1. I would put this poem in five quatrains, instead of one long stanza. That way, for me at least, it would be easier to read and easier to appreciate.

    2. In the first stanza, if it said “blew away,” then I think that “had danced” would be appropriate. But since it says “blow away” (i.e., present tense), I think it should be “danced” or “have danced.” Also, “then shortened” sounds a tiny bit awkward. Here is one possibility:

    As autumn breezes blow away
    The warmth of summer’s sun,
    Diminished is the light of day
    Since when we danced as one.

    3. I would find a way to make lines 6 and 8 have an exact rhyme. The easiest fix might be to change “rain” to “rains.”

    4. I would find a way to make lines 13 & 15 have an exact rhyme. The easiest fix might be to change “stream” to “streams.”

    5. Although I usually have reservations about inversions, my favorite line is: “Our tears met by the North wind freeze.” Beautiful.

    6. I recommend ending line 18 with a period instead of a comma.

    7. Just yesterday, on the radio, I heard Frank Sinatra singing “Autumn Leaves.” Nat King Cole also does an excellent version. The song was originally a French song. The English lyrics, which were written by Johnny Mercer, are as follows:

    The falling leaves drift by the window
    The autumn leaves of red and gold
    I see your lips, the summer kisses
    The sun-burned hands I used to hold
    Since you went away the days grow long
    And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
    But I miss you most of all my darling
    When autumn leaves start to fall

    Your poem made me think of that song. Thank you.

    8. Notwithstanding my suggestions, I think your poem is really, really good. It’s all there: meter, rhyme, mood, message, imagery, assonance, consonance, nuance and finesse. Very nicely done!

    Reply
    • Wandi Zhu

      Mr. Stone,

      Thank you very much for your suggestions and feedback . I really appreciate it.

      Reply
    • David Paul Behrens

      I love Johnny Mercer, who wrote a tremendous amount of song lyrics over a long span of time. He wrote ‘Old Man River’ in the nineteen thirties and then ‘Moon River’ in the sixties.

      Mr. Stone: Your are kind of a one man Siskel and Ebert of poetry. I am continually impressed by your frequently adept analysis and critiques of the poetry posted on this website and your ability to intricately dissect poems, breaking them down, line by line, word by word, syllable by syllable, comma by comma, apostrophe by apostrophe, with such thorough and systematic acumen. Are you basically just a poetry critic, a teacher, or are you also a poet? With your apparent superb ability to analyze, would it be possible to direct us to the superb poetry you have written?

      Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        I share you appreciation of Mercer, but Ol’ Man River was composed by Jerome Kern with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II for Showboat in 1931. By the way, I share in the enthusiasm for this lovely poem and for all the reasons that have been previously articulated

      • David Paul Behrens

        Mr. Tweedie – There was a vague question in my mind about that song after I made that comment and I began to wonder if anyone might correct me. Thank you for doing so. I realized I may have been mistaken while watching 60 minutes and they showed a clip of Paul Robeson singing the song in Showboat.

  2. Sally Cook

    Dear Wandi -=

    Your theme is lovely. It contains so many elements of dance. As both a poet and painter, I find that beauty expressed in all forms of art often crosses over from one discipline to another, and I see that you also know this. Very nice work, and thank you for it. .

    Reply
  3. Damian Robin

    Thanks Wandi, your poem is elegiac and dance-like. Joe and Sally mention this dance element. It brings to mind old traditions of movement, sound, and meaning working well when performed. The title helps this thought come up. (Maybe you are considering going into choreography doing an audio of this poem.)

    In dance, props and costumes have an effect. The video
    https://www.shenyun.com/videos/latest-videos/play/zPSHviGOP_Y/wearing-our-traditions%E2%80%94costumes-through-the-eyes-of-shen-yun-dancers puts this simply.

    Mark, your suggestions are nicely considered. And it’s good to be reminded that pop songs can have a traditional feel.

    Reply
    • Damian Robin

      (Maybe you are considering going into choreography or doing an audio of this poem.)
      [sorry for typo]

      Reply
  4. Martin Rizley

    The lovely imagery drawn from the change of seasons effectively creates a poignant mood of time’s passing, painful loss, along with the hope of renewal. Thanks for posting it.

    Reply
  5. David Watt

    The well-wrought images of seasons in transition make this poem active from beginning to end, and therefore, satisfying to read.

    Reply
  6. Shari Jo LeKane

    Dear Wandi Zhu,
    I like the allusion to the ‘Dryads’ Lament in your poem, expressing a feeling of loss a and hope for renewal in the midst of seasonal transition, which gives your poem a mystical quality as I envision the poetic narrative unfolding from an other-worldly perspective.

    Reply

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