Snippets 91. A Country Book: for the field, the forest, and the fireside by William Howitt was published in 1859. This charming book contains one chapter per month, each focussing on country life at the relevant time of the year. For this snippet let’s look at Howitt’s thoughts on the month of September. As usual, he found optimism and joy in the changing seasons.
Autumn is stealing on us. The great, long, and sultry heats are past. Rain has refreshed the air and the parched earth, and has given a new verdure to the pastures, where the cattle in thousands, admitted to fields and meadows that have been for some time cleared of their hay, present in their well-fed beauty scenes of peaceful animal life and plenty, that do us good to look on. The air, which seemed to slumber for weeks in an electric sleep, now awakes, and begins to shake the thick leafy masses of the trees, and, with a refreshing voice, to sing its rushing song of health and enjoyment. The shadows of the year begin to fall upon us; a gloom, pleasant and soothing, after the glare of past days, hangs in the air; and in the morning and evening there are a coolness, a moisture, a peculiar sensation, that make us feel, in every sense, that it is once more autumn.
Again the veil of clouds is drawn away by the hands of the high soaring winds, and through the sky are trailed, in their airy lengths, their gossamer drapery, amid the intense azure of the lofty immensity; and the sun comes up once more to brilliant days of the calmest and most impressive beauty. And beneath this sun the children of men, scattered over the nations, are out on field and hill, gathering, with songs and joy, the annual abundance of the Almighty.
On all sides there is joy, and gathering in of stores. It is the month of boundless abundance. Corn and hops, and fruits of all kinds, are soliciting the hand of man. The trees are beginning to change colour, indicative of ripeness in their produce, and the orchards are affluent in pears, plums, and apples. The hedges are filled with the abundance of their wild crops; crabs; black, glossy clusters of privet; buckthorn; elderberries, which furnish the farmer with a cordial cup on his return from market on a winter’s eve; and blackberries, reminding us of the Babes in the Wood. The hedgerows are brightened also with a profusion of scarlet berries, of hips, haws, honeysuckles, viburnum, and briony. The fruit of the mountain-ash, woody nightshade, and wild service, is truly beautiful; nor are the violet-hued sloes and bullaces, or the crimson mossy excrescences of the wild-rose tree, insignificant objects amid the autumnal splendours of the fading year.
You can find more quotes from the magnificent William Howitt in Grand Old Winters (Snippets 51) (January), An Easter Snippet, The Beauty and Hope of April, The Great Festival of May, Hedges not Ledgers (July), Glorious August, and The Joy of November (Snippets 38).
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