By The Landlord
“August bears corn,
In rough October
Earth must disrobe her ...” – Christina Rossetti, 1872
"The leaves of brown came tumblin' down, remember
In September in the rain
The sun went out just like a dying ember
That September in the rain.
To every word of love I heard you whisper
The raindrops seemed to play a sweet refrain." – September in the Rain, Harry Warren and Al Dubin
“October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came -
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The Sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.” – George Cooper, October’s Party
“Dry your barley in October,
Or you'll always be sober.” – English folk-rhyme, c.1846
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom-friend of the maturing sun, harvest festivals, shorter days, light fading, and the the return of the manic school-run. Mixing a sublime piece of Keats to the banality of the back-to-work season, the months of September and October have all kinds of associations – hurricane turbulence on off the coasts of the Caribbean or southern US, and yet gorgeous, glowing sunsets and anything and everything associated with autumn. It's a time of leisure ending, and with cooling weather, all kinds activity heating up. As the new Song Bar topic cycle begins in one month but crosses over into another, this week we are straddling both months on songs associated with them, whether in name, or anything happening within them. It's a ripe and fertile period, not merely for wheat or fruit, but for the imagination.
How might September or October songs distinguish themselves? As metaphors for the passing of time in life or within a relationship? To express a state of mind, resignation, mellowing, or suddenly getting everything organised in the autumn of years? Or in pointing inexorably towards decline or death? To be sad yet happy, to go down a leafy avenue into vivid descriptions of the weather or landscape, as a literal or metaphorical device? All of the above and more, and there are as many as there are leaves falling from the trees.
September and October can also have other associations that have, or could have changed the world forever, events stained red by the blood, just like the colour of falling foliage. For example, the huge consequences of the October (Bolshevik) Revolution in 1917 which eventually culminated in the military coup in Petrograd on 7 November (also marked as 25 October in the old date system). Or the near-catastrophic Cuban missle crisis of October 1962, averted by a last-minute sanity that we’re unlikely to witness today. Or of course the New York tragedy of 11th September 2001. Like October, September will never be the same again.
Major events always seem to occur at this time of year. Is it something in the water, on the air, the turning of the planet? Autumn, or fall, whatever you call it, more calamity also seems to be on the horizon in 2019, as the many twisted branches attached to two clownish blond leaders are further exposed within the political game, or far more serious and rapidly unfolding, bigger future events they are both keen to ignore – that of climate change. Leaves are curling and so are toes of embarrassment and incompetence. In short winter is coming.
Much has, and remains said of these things, but you may prefer to pick out songs related to these two months more in terms of annual events, associated feelings, or cycles within which they turn. And these months are awash with festivals, in particular harvest, that ancient ritual of bagging up ripe produce to store for the bleak months ahead. At school and the local church I remember this always being the time of month where it was tradition to bring in tins of soup, beans, Fray Bentos pies or random potatoes or onions to the a pile to be donated to charity. Perhaps now these are called food banks.
But while the world is brewing up for some trouble, September and October make up in many ways it’s a brilliant time of year, a time to get things done. And there are far more colourful traditions around the world to mark this. September is awash with marketing led awareness days, particularly in the US, such as Better Breakfast Month or Pain Awareness Month and a host of other health awareness months. Hmm, when isn’t it Pain Awareness Month? October meanwhile has, for example, Vegetarian Awareness Month, it also has National Pizza Month, National Popcorn Poppin’ Month, National Pork Month, and National Seafood Month. I’m not sure all of these are completely compatible. And October is also, among other things, National Bullying Prevention Month. and hopefully with no connection, Dwarfism/Little People Awareness Month. Is it a big thing?
But many festivals, driven by the turning of the seasons, have far more colourful associations than “awareness”. In Madeira, Portugal, harvest is celebrated each year with aromatic Madeira Island Flower Festival. There are thousands of flowers on the streets and on floats everywhere. However, I’m not sure the kid in this picture is entirely impressed.
The Jewish festival of Sukkot also celebrates harvest and is one of many religious holidays. Across seven days it often involves building a sukkah, or temporary house decorated with what you might call low-hanging fruit.
The Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival (中秋節) is celebrated in China and Vietnam, usuall in mid-September to early October on a full moon. Lots of firecrackers, lamps, and best of all, eating endless mooncakes – pastries stuffed with a variety of sweet pastes.
But most eye-popping of all is the Japanese autumn pre-harvest tradition of Honen Matsuri – or the fertility festival. Here in the town of Komaki, Shinto priests bless a massive wooden phallus, offered up in exchange for a fruitful season. Maybe they are hoping for extra big, um bananas?
Just as leaves decorate the ground at this time of year, to help inspire you, here’s a scattering of colourful contributions about these two months from this week’s many Song Bar visitors. Each is trying to be more poetic than the last. Let’s kick off with a sprinkling from September:
“September: it was the most beautiful of words, he'd always felt, evoking orange-flowers, swallows, and regret,” sighs Alexander Theroux.
“We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer's wreckage. We will welcome summer's ghost.” retorts Henry Rollins.
And now gunning for the flowery fashionista prize, here’s the 19th century’s Oliver Wendell Holmes from "Autumn" in The Atlantic Almanac,1868: “September is dressing herself in showy dahlias and splendid marigolds and starry zinnias. October, the extravagant sister, has ordered an immense amount of the most gorgeous forest tapestry for her grand reception.”
Wallace Stegner meanwhile goes for a season of mellow wistfulness: “That old September feeling ... of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air .... Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year's mistakes and failures had been wiped clean by summer.”
Next let’s get some general autumn action, courtesy of one of the great all-time lyricists:
"The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold
Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I'll hear old winter's song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall." – Autumn Leaves, Johnny Mercer
Now let’s open the batting into October, except, as TV presenter and wit Denis Norden put it, one part of the season is already over: “It’s a funny kind of month, October. For the really keen cricket fan it's when you discover that your wife left you in May.”
The poets love October too, especially those from another age:
“Sweet October, fill with praise,
Rich and glowing as thy days,
Every poet's heartfelt lays.” – Caroline May, 1887
The glow of low sunsets appears to be a running theme. “Autumn flings her fiery cloak over the sumac, beech and oak,” wrote Susan Lendroth in Ocean Wide, Ocean Deep.
“October's poplars are flaming torches lighting the way to winter,” wrote Nova Schubert Bair in Capper's Weekly.
And here’s more light on the subject:
“The door-yard trees put on their autumn bloom,
Purple and gold and crimson rich and strong,
That stain the light, and give my lonesome room
An atmosphere of sunset all day long.” – Elizabeth Akers Allen, “October” 1866
But let’s end with a couple of songs to get things started. The topics of autumn and indeed September have of course come up in the past, but it is such a rich topic, with so many gaps to fill, this week it appears the time is ripe to gather in a new harvest and include October. Previously listed, but contenders for B-list if you fancy nominating them, here’s two contrasting styles and perspectives, one obvious. the other lesser known, but both beautiful in their own ways:
So then, gathering in a no doubt rich crop of all things spanning September, October and everything associated with them, possibly picking low-hanging, but with his great wisdom, height and reach, no doubt also many harder-to-find juicy numbers in this autumn almanac, this week’s chief harvester is the tremendous TatankaYotanka! Place your songs in the baskets provided below, in time for deadline last orders at 11pm (UK time) on Monday for playlists put out on the table to feast upon on Wednesday. Let us reap what we sow, and share what we are given.
New to comment? It is quick and easy. You just need to login to Disqus once. All is explained in About/FAQs ...
Fancy a turn behind the pumps at The Song Bar? Care to choose a playlist from songs nominated and write something about it? Then feel free to contact The Song Bar here, or try the usual email address. Also please follow us social media: Song Bar Twitter, Song Bar Facebook. Song Bar YouTube. Subscribe, follow and share.