August Poems

August is a unique time in the Northeast. The Golden Rod and Joe-Pye Weed fill the fields with color.  Mature apples are becoming noticeable on the trees and the blueberries are abundant and ripe.  There is so much growth happening, and yet it is an indicator that we are getting ready to head into autumn.   

Wildflowers near field

With all the activity happening, it isn’t surprising that August has promoted many poets to pick up the pen and start writing.  Below are two poems that reflect my August experience. 

“August” by Lizette Woodworth Reese

Lizette Woodworth Reese (1856-1935) first collection of poetry, A Branch of May, was published in 1887.  Over her writing career she published 8 other volumes of poetry, a memoir, and a novel.  Reese was named poet laureate of Maryland in 1931 granted an honorary doctorate from Goucher College.

This poem, “August”, was originally published in A Branch of May.

No wind, no bird. The river flames like brass.
On either side, smitten as with a spell
Of silence, brood the fields. In the deep grass,
Edging the dusty roads, lie as they fell
Handfuls of shriveled leaves from tree and bush.
But ’long the orchard fence and at the gate,
Thrusting their saffron torches through the hush,
Wild lilies blaze, and bees hum soon and late.
Rust-colored the tall straggling briar, not one
Rose left. The spider sets its loom up there
Close to the roots, and spins out in the sun
A silken web from twig to twig. The air
Is full of hot rank scents. Upon the hill
Drifts the noon’s single cloud, white, glaring, still.

With this poem, I can feel the heat of a late summer day.  The shriveled leaves that are giving way to passage of time, the spiders that seem to be everywhere, and “the hot rank scents” that permeate the air. 

I may have chosen a gentler word than “rank” to talk about the smells of August.  Mainly because I don’t find the smells offensive. However, the odor of a hot August day is the blend of decaying leaves, fruits, and other organic material.  So “rank’ might make sense.

Golden Rod

“August Moonrise” by Sara Teasdale

Sara Teasdale (1884–1933) wrote seven books of poetry and won the Columbia Poetry Prize in 1918 for her book Love Songs. Critics often commented about her lyrical style and said that her poems were “full of musical language and evocative emotion.”(4 

“August Moonrise”, which was published in 1921, shifts us away the hot August days as described by Reese, to the mystery of the August nights. Here is the first part of this poem.

The sun was gone, and the moon was coming
Over the blue Connecticut hills;
The west was rosy, the east was flushed,
And over my head the swallows rushed
This way and that, with changeful wills.
I heard them twitter and watched them dart
Now together and now apart
Like dark petals blown from a tree;
The maples stamped against the west
Were black and stately and full of rest,
And the hazy orange moon grew up
And slowly changed to yellow gold
While the hills were darkened, fold on fold
To a deeper blue than a flower could hold.
Down the hill I went, and then
I forgot the ways of men,
For night-scents, heady, and damp and cool
Wakened ecstasy in me
On the brink of a shining pool.

I really enjoy this part of her poem as it beautifully describes an August night.  The flight of the swallows as they chase the evening insects, the hazy orange moon growing out of the horizon, and the mention of the smells of August.  The difference here is that Teasdale talks about the scent as “heady” instead of “rank”. I like the heady description a little more.  

In the second part of this poem, Teasdale proclaims her love for the beauty of the night.

O Beauty, out of many a cup
You have made me drunk and wild
Ever since I was a child,
But when have I been sure as now
That no bitterness can bend
And no sorrow wholly bow
One who loves you to the end?
And though I must give my breath
And my laughter all to death,
And my eyes through which joy came,
And my heart, a wavering flame;
If all must leave me and go back
Along a blind and fearful track
So that you can make anew,
Fusing with intenser fire,
Something nearer your desire;
If my soul must go alone
Through a cold infinity,
Or even if it vanish, too,
Beauty, I have worshipped you.

Let this single hour atone
For the theft of all of me.

Both of these poems bring attention to the sensory experience of Autumn. We are brought on an immersive journey into the natural world. A journey that celebrates the beauty of the natural world.

Do you have any favorite poems that remind you of August? Please share below.

Bee on Joe Pye Weed

Resources:

  1. Poets.org- “August” by Lizette Woodworth Reese
  2. Poetry Foundation – Lizette Woodworth Reese
  3. Poets.org – “August Moonrise” by Sara Teasdale
  4. Poetry Foundation – Sara Teasdale

7 thoughts on “August Poems

Add yours

  1. Thank you. I think rank was ok. When I am on the trails it often times it smells of decaying leaves and chipmunks. I also enjoy the Joe-pye because of it’s height and color.

    1. I did go back and forth about the word rank. I can see why it was chosen, and if nothing else it makes me go out to woods and focus on the smells of the forest. Thanks for the comment!

  2. These poems are beautiful and I particularly like the one by Lizette Woodworth Reese. I love the way it flows effortlessly. I get what you’re saying about the word ‘rank’. It does seem an unusual choice, but when I looked up the meaning on various websites, one of the possible meanings is ‘fertile’, so that could fit in well with the month of August and the onset of autumn harvest.

    Here’s a poem from the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns. He wrote wonderful nature poetry as well as having an enormous energy for his numerous love pursuits! 😉

    “Once upon a Lammas Night
    When corn rigs are bonny,
    Beneath the Moon’s unclouded light,
    I held awhile to Annie…
    The time went by with careless heed
    Between the late and early,
    With small persuasion she agreed
    To see me through the barley…
    Corn rigs and barley rigs,
    Corn rigs are bonny!
    I’ll not forget that happy night
    Among the rigs with Annie!”
    – Robert Burns (1759 – 1796)
    😊

    I really like the months of August, September and October when it begins to cool down and, of course, when the vegetation begins to change colour.

    1. Hi Lesley, thanks for adding to the discussion about the term rank. I was also thinking about how the meaning of the word may be different depending on location and time. This is probably always a challenge with all forms of writing. Interesting that you found fertile as a definition. That would make sense.
      Interesting poem by Burns. This is another place where place and time plays an important role in word choice.I had to go look up all the rigs and bonny. And I found out who Annie may have been!
      Thanks for sharing!

      1. Robert (Rabbie) Burns has written many poems dedicated to several ladies. He even wrote one called Bonny Lesley! He was a farmer and very attuned with nature. He also wrote To A Mouse and one called To A Louse! The language can be challenging to many people, I have to admit. 😀

    1. Hi Tracy, thanks so much for sharing! I have read these poems a couple of times now and I keep finding new lines to be drawn to. Brood the fields is another great one!

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