Now is the tolling time
Between the falling and the buried leaf;
A solitary bell
Saddens the soft air with the last knell of summer.
Gone is the swallow’s flight, the curving sheaf;
The plums are bruised that hung from a bent bough,
Wasp-plundered apples in the dew-drenched grass
Lie rotting now.
Doomed with the rest, the daggered hawthorn bleeds
Bright crimson beads
For the birds’ feast.
Gone are the clusters of ripe cherries,
Tart crabs and damsons where a bullfinch tarried,
Only the camp-fire coloured rowan berries
Now is the time of slow, mist-hindered dawns,
Of sun that stains
Weeds tarnished early in the chilling rains,
Of coarse-cut stubble fields
Where starlings gather, busy with the scant grain,
And with hoarse chattering proclaim
The spent season.
Now are the last days of warm sun
That fires rusted bracken on the hill;
And mellows the deserted trees
Where the last leaves cling, sapless, shrunk, and yellow.
A robin finds some warm October bough
Recapturing his song
Of Aprils gone,
And tardy blackbirds in the late-green larch
St Luke’s-tide lovers exchange tokens and set the wedding date.
It was anciently very customary . . . .to break a piece of Gold or Silver in token of a verbal contract of marriage and promises of love; one half whereof was kept by the woman, while the other part remained with the man.
Brand Popular Antiquities 1813