(Our friends from Australia and elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere will probably prefer to celebrate the September equinox with our collection of spring poetry on Lit2Go. We’ve noticed a large influx of subscribers from Australia lately. Welcome!)

Most classrooms I visit in autumn have sprouted colorful leaf bulletin board borders or other signs of the fall season. This may be especially true in parts of Florida where we have to do a whole lot of explaining when it comes to seasons. The days may be a little less hot, but the palm trees stay green with the fronds firmly attached. When teaching fourth grade in Florida, I used to have someone in Pennsylvania send me a box of fall leaves each year so students could experience the feel, the smell, and even the sound of crunching fall leaves.

The rich sensory descriptions in poetry offer an additional avenue to understanding seasonal change. I’ve selected eight autumn poems from our Lit2Go audiobook collection. Click on the title of any of the poems below to jump to the appropriate page on Lit2Go. Each poem page includes the text and an MP3 audio file. Use the audio files with the whole class, in listening centers, or you can even send Lit2Go audio files home with students on an MP3 capable device. Most of the linked poems also include a PDF of the poem formatted for printing and a suggested activity using the poem. Use the PDFs as handouts or on bulletin boards.

For a dozen or so additional ideas on using these poems, see the post How To Use Lit2Go Audiobooks in Your Classroom.

The Chase by Paul Laurence Dunbar

The wind told the little leaves to hurry,
And chased them down the way,
While the mother tree laughed loud in glee,
For she thought her babes at play,
The cruel wind and the rain laughed loudly,
We’ll bury them deep, they said,
And the old tree grieves, and the little leaves
Lie low, all chilled and dead.

A Fall Song by Ellen Robena Field

Golden and red trees
Nod to the soft breeze,
As it whispers, “Winter is near;”
And the brown nuts fall
At the wind’s loud call,
For this is the Fall of the year.

Goodbye, sweet flowers!
Through bright Summer hours
You have filled our hearts with cheer
We shall miss you so,
And yet you must go,
For this is the Fall of the year.

Now the days grow cold,
As the year grows old,
And the meadows are brown and sere;
Brave robin redbreast
Has gone from his nest,
For this is the Fall of the year.

I do softly pray
At the close of day,
That the little children, so dear,
May as purely grow
As the fleecy snow
That follows the Fall of the year.

Autumn Fires by Robert Louis Stevenson

In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

Autumn by Emily Dickinson

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.

Nutting Song by Paul Laurence Dunbar

The November sun invites me,
And although the chill wind smites me,
I will wander to the woodland
Where the laden trees await;
And with loud and joyful singing
I will set the forest ringing,
As if I were king of Autumn,
And Dame Nature were my mate,—
While the squirrel in his gambols
Fearless round about me ambles,
As if he were bent on showing
In my kingdom he’d a share;
While my warm blood leaps and dashes,
And my eye with freedom flashes,
As my soul drinks deep and deeper
Of the magic in the air.
There’s a pleasure found in nutting,
All life’s cares and griefs outshutting,
That is fuller far and better
Than what prouder sports impart.
Who could help a carol trilling
As he sees the baskets filling?
Why, the flow of song keeps running
O’er the high walls of the heart.
So when I am home returning,
When the sun is lowly burning,
I will once more wake the echoes
With a happy song of praise,—
For the golden sunlight blessing,
And the breezes’ soft caressing,
And the precious boon of living
In the sweet November days.

Autumn Sonnet by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thou comest, Autumn, heralded by the rain,
With banners, by great gales incessant fanned,
Brighter than brightest silks of Samarcand,
And stately oxen harnessed to thy wain!
Thou standest, like imperial Charlemagne,
Upon thy bridge of gold; thy royal hand
Outstretched with benedictions o’er the land,
Blessing the farms through all thy vast domain!
Thy shield is the red harvest moon, suspended
So long beneath the heaven’s o’er-hanging eaves;
Thy steps are by the farmer’s prayers attended;
Like flames upon an altar shine the sheaves;
And, following thee, in thy ovation splendid,
Thine almoner, the wind, scatters the golden leaves!

Autumn by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

With what a glory comes and goes the year!
The buds of spring, those beautiful harbingers
Of sunny skies and cloudless times, enjoy
Life’s newness, and earth’s garniture spread out;
And when the silver habit of the clouds
Comes down upon the autumn sun, and with
A sober gladness the old year takes up
His bright inheritance of golden fruits,
A pomp and pageant fill the splendid scene.

There is a beautiful spirit breathing now
Its mellow richness on the clustered trees,
And, from a beaker full of richest dyes,
Pouring new glory on the autumn woods,
And dipping in warm light the pillared clouds.
Morn on the mountain, like a summer bird,
Lifts up her purple wing, and in the vales
The gentle wind, a sweet and passionate wooer,
Kisses the blushing leaf, and stirs up life
Within the solemn woods of ash deep-crimsoned,
And silver beech, and maple yellow-leaved,
Where Autumn, like a faint old man, sits down
By the wayside a-weary. Through the trees
The golden robin moves. The purple finch,
That on wild cherry and red cedar feeds,
A winter bird, comes with its plaintive whistle,
And pecks by the witch-hazel, whilst aloud
From cottage roofs the warbling blue-bird sings,
And merrily, with oft-repeated stroke,
Sounds from the threshing-floor the busy flail.

O what a glory doth this world put on
For him who, with a fervent heart, goes forth
Under the bright and glorious sky, and looks
On duties well performed, and days well spent!
For him the wind, ay, and the yellow leaves,
Shall have a voice, and give him eloquent teachings.
He shall so hear the solemn hymn that Death
Has lifted up for all, that he shall go
To his long resting-place without a tear.

Merry Autumn by Paul Laurence Dunbar

It’s all a farce,—these tales they tell
About the breezes sighing,
And moans astir o’er field and dell,
Because the year is dying.
Such principles are most absurd,—
I care not who first taught ‘em;
There’s nothing known to beast or bird
To make a solemn autumn.
In solemn times, when grief holds sway
With countenance distressing,
You’ll note the more of black and gray
Will then be used in dressing.
Now purple tints are all around;
The sky is blue and mellow;
And e’en the grasses turn the ground
From modest green to yellow.
The seed burrs all with laughter crack
On featherweed and jimson;
And leaves that should be dressed in black
Are all decked out in crimson.
A butterfly goes winging by;
A singing bird comes after;
And Nature, all from earth to sky,
Is bubbling o’er with laughter.
The ripples wimple on the rills,
Like sparkling little lasses;
The sunlight runs along the hills,
And laughs among the grasses.
The earth is just so full of fun
It really can’t contain it;
And streams of mirth so freely run
The heavens seem to rain it.
Don’t talk to me of solemn days
In autumn’s time of splendor,
Because the sun shows fewer rays,
And these grow slant and slender.
Why, it’s the climax of the year,—
The highest time of living!—
Till naturally its bursting cheer

BONUS! Add some color to your fall poetry with these visual resources from FCIT:

Fall Photos

Fall Presentation Backgrounds

A collection of colorful fall backgrounds from the Presentations ETC website.

Fall Presentation Slide Set

Set of 80 presentation background variations on a fall photograph from the Presentations ETC website.

Falling Leaves Videos

A small video collection of autumn trees with falling leaves from the ClipVideo ETC website.

Roy Winkelman is a 40+ year veteran teacher of students from every level kindergarten through graduate school. As the former Director of FCIT, he began the Center's focus on providing students with rich content collections from which to build their understanding. When not glued to his keyboard, Dr. Winkelman can usually be found puttering around his tomato garden in Pittsburgh. Questions about this post or suggestions for a future topic? Email me at Roy@FCIT.US. To ensure that your email is not blocked, please do not change the subject line. Thank you!

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