Now’s the time when children’s noses
All become as red as roses
And the colour of their faces
Makes me think of orchard places
Where the juicy apples grow,
And tomatoes in a row.
And to-day the hardened sinner
Never could be late for dinner,
But will jump up to the table
Just as soon as he is able,
Ask for three times hot roast mutton–
Oh! the shocking little glutton.
Come then, find your ball and racket,
Pop into your winter jacket,
With the lovely bear-skin lining.
While the sun is brightly shining,
Let us run and play together
And just love the autumn weather.
Katherine Mansfield, a modernist writer, was born in New Zealand in 1888. She spent much of her adulthood, albeit brief, in London, where she wrote much of her poetry and short stories. The year in which this particular poem was written remains unknown, but it was likely first published in Poems, a 1923 collection of poetry comprised after Mansfield’s death by her husband John Middleton Murray. Although much of her work was unpublished at the time of her death, Middleton was nonetheless a prolific writer in her final years and left a lasting legacy in New Zealand, England, and even France.
Although the season began more than two weeks ago, it has only begun to feel like autumn in the past day or so. Katherine Mansfield’s poem feels especially appropriate on crisp days like this, when autumn comes to life. Mansfield’s singsong rhythm in an aabbcc rhyme scheme is reminiscent of childhood. Her title incorporates the two most salient aspects of the poem: its rhythm and rhyme as well as its autumnal subject matter. Through her words, Mansfield brings to life a beautiful image: as the color drains from the trees, color floods our wind-nipped faces and fall fruits and vegetables. Mansfield implores her readers to take advantage of beautiful fall days instead of hibernating, for the sun will soon hide for longer hours at a time; it is wise to absorb its last rays before winter. With her mentions of food, Mansfield notes that autumn is a time for harvest and for feast, for bounty and for sharing.