Autumn usually starts off gentle and in it’s beginning we hardly notice its presence apart from the odd leaves changing colour and a chill in the air. We try to hold on to summer and choose to ignore Autumn, stretching the summer for as long as we can. But there is a natural cycle playing out. As Autumn comes in quietly, it has a job to do. It prepares us for Winter. It gently starts to show us the beauty of letting go and how through letting go we allow new ideas and new life to be born from the death of the old.
Autumn makes the transition towards loss and introspection easier to adapt to. Imagine how harsh it would be if we went straight from Summer and into the harsh and bare Winter. However, Autumn can’t mollycoddle us forever and eventually it’s gentleness has to move aside as the transition towards Winter starts to speed up. Autumn gives time for flowers to drop their seeds, animals to collect food for their winter stores and grow winter coats, and the leaves to fall so that the new ones can grow.
If we were to continue to ignore the warnings Autumn brings to us we would not prepare for the Winter which comes with it’s many challenges. You can not fight the changing of the seasons, you can only adapt to them.
Below is a very old short story I have adapted and modernised. It is about the changing of the season from Summer to Autumn and then from Autumn to Winter.
The Story Of Prince Autumn
The Prince of Autumn is a distinguished man. His hair and beard are peppered with grey and he has lines on his face. He wears a cloak of autumnal reds, greens, browns and yellows. He looks good and he stands tall and robust. In his hand, he carries a horn.
He walks to the top of a hill and smiles sadly as he puts the horn to his mouth and blows.
Summer goes his prospering way
Autumn’s horn is calling
Heather dresses the brown hill clay
Winds whip crackling across the bay
Leaves in the grove keep falling.
All the trees start to tremble and the birds stop singing. The meadow flowers drop their petals but they are unsure what is happening. It can’t be autumn because high on the mountains, the bare hills and down in the bogs, there is purple heather flourishing. So the bees fly from the fading meadow flowers and go to the heather fields instead.
Prince Autumn puts the horn to his mouth and blows again.
Autumn rules with banners bright
Quelling summer’s eternal fight
Heralding Winter, wild and white,
As this is taking place, the Prince Of Summer looks up from the valley and Prince Autumn bows before him and they shake hands.
“Welcome,” says Summer.
They walk through the valley together as they do every year on this time. Wherever they walk, Summer’s radiance overshadows Autumn and nobody is aware of Autumn’s presence.
With the notes of Autumn’s horn now dying away everyone has recovered from that earlier shudder they felt. The trees, birds and flowers have become themselves again and the bees continue to make merry in the heather.
But whenever the princes stop on their walk through the valley, the foliage where Autumn walks turns yellow. A little leaf falls from a stalk, the nightingale stops singing and the cuckoo becomes silent. The princes take no notice.
“Welcome,” says Summer gain. “Do you remember your promise”?
“Yes” Autumn replies
The prince of Summer looks out over the kingdom. “And will you take them into your gentle keeping”?
“I will bring your harvest home and I will watch carefully over those who dream. I will warn them three times that winter is coming.”
They continue to walk along until nightfall. All is quiet and still and only the owls can be heard hooting. Prince Summer turns to Prince Autumn and says forlornly. “The Honeysuckle’s petals fell when you blew your horn. Some of my children will die when I leave the valley. But I will take the nightingale, cuckoo and stork with me. It is time for me to leave now. My presence will linger for a while but once my reign is forgotten, my memory will revive with the sun and pleasant days.”
Prince Summer waves farewell and hands over possession of the kingdom to Autumn. As Summer departs the air is full of the soft sound of migrating birds following him.
For a while, nobody notices Autumn’s dominion has begun. A brown leaf falls here, a yellow leaf falls there. As time goes on the changing of the season becomes faster and more colours and splendour arrive.
A blackbird and thrush chat in the wood which is now adorned with berries. The wind puffs and high up in the sky the sun looks down gently upon all of it.
The Prince Of Autumn nods as his cloak flaps in the wind. “I am the least important of the four seasons. I’m barely lord of my own land. I serve two jealous masters and have to please them both. But my power is strong enough so that I can give a few glad days.
He then puts his horn to his mouth and blows.
To The Valley revellers hie
They are clad in Autumnal fancy
They are weary of green and faded tresses
Summer has vanished, Winter is nigh
Hip Hip Hooray for Autumn.
The following night a storm approaches. The trees are frightened and the crows are silent.
A strong presence appears and a hoarse voice shouts out “Is that the worst you can do? Have you forgotten our bargain?”
Autumn looks up into Winter’s great cold eyes. “No, I haven’t,”
The night turns so bitterly cold and the distant peaks of the mountains glitter with fresh snow.
The Prince of Autumn looks earnestly over the land and the wrinkles in his forehead grow deeper. “It must be time,” he says and he blows his horn.
Autumn’s horn makes a lusty chime for the second time, for the second time
Head the call, complying
Fling seed to Earth
Fill sacks full of girth
Plump fur back and sides
Pad your belts and hide
Hold all wings close for flying
All of a sudden a sense of urgency fills the land and they now understand what is about to come.
“Come dear wind and shake us,” say the poppies
“Fly away with my seeds wind,” says the dandelions
The wind does as they ask. The beech tree drops its fruit onto the hare’s fur and the foxes too. Quick now says Autumn there is no time to waste. Mice filled their living room from floor to ceiling with nuts and acorns. The sun hides behind the clouds and doesn’t appear for many days. Then it begins to rain and the wind blows the rain and the roar of the river becomes foam-like.
“Now the song is over,” says Autumn and he once again puts the horn to his mouth and blows.
Autumn’s horn blows a lusty chime
For the last time, For the last time
Ways close when need is sorest
Land birds fly clear
Frogs set in the mere
Bees lock your lair
Take shelter Bear
Fall last leaf in the forest.
Then it was over. The birds fly from the land in flocks. The wind tears through the forest and pulls the last leaves from the tree. The wind grows stronger every day, snapping branches and sweeping falling leaves into heaps. The hedgehog crawls into a hole. The sparrow takes lodging in a deserted swallow’s nest. The frogs go to the bottom of the pond to settle in the mud.
Prince Autumn now looks over the land to check it is bare so that Winter’s storms can come and the snow can fall where it pleases. He stops before the old oak and looks at the ivy that has climbed to the top and spread her green leaves as if Winter has no existence at all. The ivy flowers blossom and rock in the wind.
“Now I am coming,” roars Winter from the mountain. “My clouds are bursting with snow and my storms are breaking free. I can no longer control them.”
Prince Autumn listens, he hears the storm rushing in now from the mountains. A snowflake falls upon his cloak. For the last time, he puts his horn to his mouth and blows as he ushers Prince Winter into the kingdom to take over.
Thou greenest plant and tardiest
Thou fairest, rarest, hardiest
Bright through unending hours
Round Summer, Winter, Autumn, Spring
Thy vigorous embraces cling
Look Ivy of mine, tis I who sing
Tis Autumn wins your flowers.
Then he leaves in the storm and Winter takes over the reign.
Story adapted and retold by Sara Mondaini
Taken from Prince Autumn by Carl Edward.