Autumnal Scents


Ilya Ostroukhov. The Golden Autumn

There is a wild, withered fragrance wandering in the wood. It is not the all-pervading incense of spring, but the sweetness of decay; a chastened odor; a something that has been touched with blast. It is from the pennyroyal, on the upland, the dying fern, the faded herbage; from the piles of drifting foliage, amid the dim aisles below; from the purple grape, hanging leafless upon the tree; from the heavy autumnal flowers that flame along the water-courses, secure from early frosts; from the ever-green pine, and from thousands of medicinal herbs, that linger amid the sorrowing rains of waning Autumn.
The Knickerbocker, Volume 14

Curled at the foot of a beech, where only greenest moss and silky grasses grow, I held the yarrow blossoms to my nose until my lungs were filled with the subtle odor that revived all my waning energies. It is not a summer scent that recalls June roses or the blossoms of fruit trees. It is heavy, rich, penetrating; a nut-like, oily, autumn odor that charges the landscape ; a transporting perfume that blots out the present and pictures the future without its blemishes; gives us the spirit of autumn and veils its frost-scared body. The bloom of the yarrow is as potent as the fruit of the fabled lotus.
Friends Intelligencer, Volume 53

The smells of the woods, arising from the decaying leaves that strewed the ground, were different, and each smell was characteristic. Oak leaves, when withering in the sun, exhaled a sharp keen odor which was altogether peculiar, and seemed to be the vivid essence of the strength of the tree, so that, in turning them up with the foot, you had, in the pungent smell emitted, a feeling of the enduring character of the tree itself. Ash leaves and elm leaves in their decay create an odor which has a special power of calling up pictures of the places where these trees grow. I used to know, from the smells of the different faded leaves on the ground, without looking up at all at the trees from which they fell, what kind of tree produced them. These autumnal odors touched the spirit in a wonderful way; and even in the hard streets of the city, when one catches them from the withered spoils of the over-arching trees, they bring dreams of dim forest haunts far away.
Current Literature, Volume 31
 edited by Edward Jewitt Wheeler

There was more Prince's Wood still to do, but, luckily, there was at this point a choice of roads. I need not say that we chose the other way around. It was only half shaded; the dense trees followed us on one side with their chill shadows and their acrid, autumnal odors, but overhead was the fair sky; and on the other hand we could see, stretching far away over the interminable net-work of little, rush-fringed watercourses cutting about the broad emerald meadows, the high, grassy dikes that kept back the brown waves of the North Sea. We could see the flapping pennons of the fisher-boats on the strand, and we could scent from afar the air tingling with ozone. The saline whiffs got stronger, and, even when mingled with dashes of peat-reek and tarry smoke from boat-menders' fires, with a few pungent fish-curing odors blended artfully now and then, it was fragrant perfume after the grave-like damps of that depressing grove.
Sketching rambles in Holland
 By George Henry Boughton

So, on the moment she went. It was the night of the full moon, the harvestmoon, and all earth and ocean lay glowing and quivering in a bath of golden splendor. From the woods and fields mine rich autumnal odors, and from over the sea, sighing breaths of a dying tropic breeze,—night-birds and insects on the one hand, the long waste of dreaming waves sliding up the sands, and breaking in music, upon the other.
Putnam's Magazine, Volume 2

Dr. Sneyd was at the window without another word. It was still so dark that he could not distinguish the intruder till he passed directly before the window. At that moment the doctor threw up the sash. The wind blew in chilly, bringing the autumnal scent of decaying vegetation from the woods; but the rain was over. The driving clouds let out a faint glimmer from the east; but all besides was darkness, except a little yellow light which was still wandering on the prairie, and which now appeared not far distant from the paling of the orchard.
Briery Creek. The three ages
 By Harriet Martineau

Were you aware that a delicious perfumeshoots' from the common brake-leaf when the frost has touched it? We never dreamed of it before our last autumn-ramble, but then as we stood at the foot of a hill, with a pretty lake weltering dreamin close by. and with glimpses of spring‘water now and then sparkling up through the crisp grass all around—an odor delicious and spicy, and somewhat like that of the verbena bean, scented the air all around. We searched everywhere for its source. A spice-bush, still feathered over with yellow blossoms, grew in a neighboring bank, but the odor was not like that of the spicebush. On a rock near by, a wild rose-bush was rooted—its leaves tinted with death, and yet with one flower in full blossom, and two buds just ready to unfold, and deeply red, as if the frost had but enlivened their color. Wild roses on the last day of October! was not this asight worth going into the fields to obtain l—and such roles! fresh as June,
And fragrant beyond any summer flower we ever met with; but no one bush of blossoms ever threw out the cloud of odor that floated around us— and its origin might to this day have been unknown, but for a lovely member of our party, who came running toward us from a rock where she had been remarkably busy with a tuft of withering brake leaves in her hand—
“ l have found it! I have found it! " said she, with sparkling eyes—“ the brakes! the brakes! "
Sure enough, it was the brakes ; they were all around us, polishing in the grass, and flinging a sweetness to the wind which their green prime had never known. The humble plant had no tribute of rich colors to offer to the year in aid of its bravestjubilee; but it poured out its dying breath where the beautiful leaves were revelling, and enriched the turf where it died, more delicious a thousand times, because it came when the flowers had exhausted their sweetness.
Brother Jonathan, Volume 6

 There is a pungency of sweetness in the autumnal scents; mint and sage and flagroot and lobelia-flower seem to mingle their smells in a braided strand of invigorating flavor. The fields are never so good as at this season when the winds blow over them with fresh life and vigor. To stand on a hilltop in the cheery autumn breeze and view the four quarters of the globe is a benediction. Nature does not say to you, Come here, and I will read you a lesson, preach you a sermon, or deliver you a lecture. She says, Just come to me, and I will steal into your heart an influence like the perfume of the autumn pasture, or the freshness of the western breeze.
There is a scent of ripening apples in the air. It is the best of the autumn's fruity odors. It mingles pleasantly with the scent of burning leaves where the blue smoke spires up and spreads abroad, deepening the mist to Indian summer coloring. The apple is the good perfume that haunts old garrets. There are plenty of scents in houses that are not quite agreeable, but what memories of old garrets the apple scent brings; and the herby scent of simples hung up along the rafter, to furnish the simple farm-house pharmacopoeia! There, too, in that vast roomy receptacle the big squashes and pumpkins found a place awaiting their conversion into Thanksgiving pies. What do city children know of real life who have never had a country garret to prowl in?
The Unitarian Register, Volume 93

Where the harrows have run, the foot sinks so deep walking would be weary work but for the stimulus of air and sky and ripe autumnal scents. The most subtle of them is the earth-scent—which is like nothing else under the sun. Life is in it, and balm of healing, and the gentle soothing of happy hope. Truth eternal is wrapped in the fable of Antaeus. He typifies humanity growing strong again by touching Mother Earth. It is mid-October he season of golden days, of silver starless nights, of fitful laughing rains that begin or end in mist. The sun is "a rose of dawn," a ball of fire-scarlet at his setting. All day long there is a tinge of ruby in his shining, and though mid-day is still summer-warm the shadows and the nights have lengthened and strengthened. There has been barely a hint of frost-only enough to accent the smell of garnered fruit, and sparse new fallen leaves....
Everybody's Magazine, Volume 7
 By Frank Norris, O. Henry

When I got into Lincoln Road [September 11] I perceived a singular sweet scent in the air; but, though I smelled everything around, I could not detect it. It was one of the sweet scents which go to make up the autumn, which fed and dilated my sense of smell. I felt the better for it. Methinks that I possess the sense of smell in greater perfection than usual. How autumnal is the scent of wild grapes, now by the roadside! The cross-leaved polygala emits its fragrance as at will; you must not hold it too near, but on all sides and at all distances. The pendulous, drooping barberries are pretty well reddened. I am glad when the berries look fair and plump.
The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, Volume 9

Over all this silence there was a domination of scent. The scent of the barley had not yet died out of the shorn fields; in the stackgarth it was strong and pungent. Mingling with it, now that ploughing had begun, came the good smell of the earth, fresh, strong, powerful, asserting itself with insistent force as the shining ploughshares turned its new-born face to the sky and the sun. Mingling with both was the rich odour of the apple-orchard, wherein the yet ungathered apples made spots of glaring crimson and yellow against the mysterious gloom of the interlacing boughs.
The Harvest Moon
 By Joseph Smith Fletcher



Carolina Pine.
BY HARRY R. PBTBRSON.
Somewhere in the sand hill country you can find me every fall,
Where the wind is dry and mellow and the grass is brown and tall;
Where you hear a drowsy music in an air as sweet as wine,—
In the whispering and murmuring of Carolina pine.

Clusters delicate as palm fronds, waving in a Southern breeze.
Quail a-whistling on the uplands, purple haze upon the leas,—
While from every grove and hill and barren, tuned with Nature's
tine,
Comes the undertone of ages from a spray of long-leaf pine.

I have listened in the night time and have heard that constant roar
Full and steady as the distant note of surf upon the shore;
And I keep that vibrant melody deep in this heart of mine;
Dreams and memories together, underneath a long-leaf pine.

Somewhere in the sand hill country you can find me every fall,
Near the fragrance of the uplands, out beyond the city wall;
For an everlasting music and the peace of God are mine
In the whispering and murmuring of Carolina pine. 

There is a pungency of sweetness in the autumnal scents; mint and sage and flagroot and lobelia-flower seem to mingle their smells in a braided strand of invigorating flavor. The fields are never so good as at this season when the winds blow over them with fresh life and vigor. To stand on a hilltop in the cheery autumn breeze and view the four quarters of the globe is a benediction. Nature does not say to you, Come here, and I will read you a lesson, preach you a sermon, or deliver you a lecture. She says, Just come to me, and I will steal into your heart an influence like the perfume of the autumn pasture, or the freshness of the western breeze.

There is a scent of ripening apples in the air. It is the best of the autumn's fruity odors. It mingles pleasantly with the scent of burning leaves where the blue smoke spires up and spreads abroad, deepening the mist to Indian summer coloring. The apple is the good perfume that haunts old garrets. There are plenty of scents in houses that are not quite agreeable, but what memories of old garrets the apple scent brings; and the herby scent of simples hung up along the rafter, to furnish the simple farm-house pharmacopoeia! There, too, in that vast roomy receptacle the big squashes and pumpkins found a place awaiting their conversion into Thanksgiving pies. What do city children know of real life who have never had a country garret to prowl in?
The Unitarian Register, Volume 93

There is a Wild, withered fragrance Wandering in the wood. It is not the all-pervading incense of spring, but the sweetness of decay; a chastened odor; a something that has been touched with blast. It is from the pennyroyal, on the upland, the dying fern, the faded herbage; from ‘the piles of drifting foliage, amid the dim aisles below; from the purple grape, hanging leafless upon the tree; from the heavy autumnal flowers that flame along the water-courses, secure from early frosts; from the ever-green pine, and from thousands of medicinal herbs, that linger amid the sorrowing rains of waning Autumn. 
The Knickerbocker; Or, New-York Monthly Magazine, Volume 14

Far above me, on the plain, orchards are bending with their affluent abundance. Plenty staggers over the earth, loaded with blessings. The heavy wain creaks along the distant landscape. There is the soft peach, with its tender blush, and melting flavor; pyramids of apples, reared to the memory of cider, and long winter evenings; corn, whose yellow ears lie embedded in the husk, like pure gold in the ore; pumpkins, plump-and round as the goodly periphery of an alderman, recline lazily over the field, in luxurious ease ; with eccentric squashes, crooked and perverse. It is the banquet of the year; the gathering-in of good things ; the consummation of labor and of hope. '

There is a Wild, withered fragrance Wandering in the wood. It is not the all-pervading incense of spring, but the sweetness of decay; a chastened odor; a something that has been touched with blast. It is from the pennyroyal, on the upland, the dying fern, the faded herbage; from ‘the piles of drifting foliage, amid the dim aisles below; from the purple grape, hanging leafless upon the tree; from the heavy autumnal flowers that flame along the water-courses, secure from early frosts; from the ever-green pine, and from thousands of medicinal herbs, that linger amid the sorrowing rains of waning Autumn.
The Knickerbocker; Or, New-York Monthly Magazine, Volume 14

And then there were storehouses and ricks and barns, all piled with the abundance of the harvest. The farm-yard was alive with young fowls and cocks and hens; and guinea-hens, those gentle little dowagers, went about glistening in silver and gray, and Cecilia's geese came clamoring to meet her. I can see it all as I think about it. The old walls are all carved and ornamented, sometimes by art and work of man's hand, sometimes by time and lovely little natural mosses. House-leeks grow in clumps upon the thatch, a pretty girl is peeping through a lattice window, a door is open, while a rush of sweet morning scent comes through the shining oaken passage from the herb-garden and orchard behind. Cows with their soft brown eyes and cautious tread are passing on their way to a field across the road. A white horse waiting by his stable door shakes his head and whinnies.....
This year all the leaves were turning to such beautiful colors that people remarked upon it, and said they never remembered such a glowing autumn; even the year when Frank came to Dorlicote was not to compare to it. Browns and russet, and bright amber and gold flecks, berries, red leaves, a lovely blaze and glitter in the woods along the lanes and beyond the fields and copses. All the hills were melting with lovely color in the clear warm autumn air, and the little nut-wood paths seemed like Aladdin's wonderful gardens, where precious stones hung to the trees; there was a twinkle and crisp shimmer, yellow leaves and golden light, yellow light and golden leaves, red hawthorn, convolvulus-berries, holly-berries beginning to glow, and heaped-up clustering purple blackberries. The sloe-berries, or snowy blackthorn fruit, with their soft gloom of color, were over, and this was the last feast of the year. On the trees the apples hung red and bright, the pears seemed ready to drop from their branches and walls, the wheat was stacked, the skyhooked violet behind the yellow ricks
The writings
 By Anne Isabella Thackeray

'Tis all a myth that autumn grieves,
For watch the rain amid the leaves;
With silver fingers dimly seen
It makes each leaf a tambourine;
And swings and leaps with elfin mirth
To kiss the brow of mother earth ;
Or, laughing, 'mid the trembling grass,
It nods a greeting as you pass.
Oh! hear the rain amid the leaves–
'Tis all a myth that autumn grieves!
'Tis all a myth that autumn grieves,
For list the wind among the sheaves;
Far sweeter than the breath of May 
Or storied scents of old Cathay,
It blends the perfumes rare and good
Of spicy pine and hickory wood;
And with a voice as gay as rhyme,
It prates of rifled mint and thyme
Oh, scent the wind among the sheaves—
'Tis all a myth that autumn grieves !
'Tis all a myth that autumn grieves—
Behold the wondrous web she weaves !
By view less hands her thread is spun
Of evening vapors shyly won.
Across the grass from side to side
A myriad unseen shuttles glide
Throughout the night, till on the height 
Aurora leads the laggard light.
Behold the wondrous Web she weaves—
'Tis all a myth that autumn grieves!
—Samuel Minturn Peck.

To the man who knows Arcadia as a child knows its mother's face there can be nothing more saddening than the change which has come over the harvest-field daring the last 30 years. In the 'sixties it was no uncommon thing—in spite of the gradual inroads which the mechanic and his machines had then made into rural industries—to find a typical old English harvest scene in the corn-yielding districts. As you went about the land what time the air was fragrant with the scent of ripened barley you came across some broad-acred field where the standing corn was being cut in the primitive fashion with scythe and sickle, and where the scene which almost every English landscape painter has striven to depict on canvas, was apparent in its natural truth. You heard the swish of the scythe, the sharp r-rasp of the sickle; you saw men's sunburnt arms moving in steady circles with the curved shaft of the one, and men's brown hands grasping the trembling corn as the other shore through the brittle straw. There were always women and children about in those days— women tying up the sheaves or busy with rakes— children tumbling about in the hedge-bottoms, or fast asleep at the foot and in the shade of a corn-stook. Men and women and children alike spent their day in the harvest field—ate, drank, slept, laughed, joked, and quarrelled in it, and went home at night when all the hedgerows were white with autumn-presaging dew, and the moon rose ghostlike above the furthest hill, with the scent of harvest clinging about them and the sleepiness born of sun and air filling their whole being.
The Journal of the Society of Estate Clerks of Works, Volumes 12-13
 By Society of Estate Clerks of Works, London

With August commences the decline of these delicious gifts of vegetation, and the scents of autumn and the harvest become every day more abundant, until the arrival of the frosts, which charge the atmosphere with those peculiar odors that mark the fall of the leaf. After the orchis has perished in the meadows, and while the nymphs who preside over the fields and flowers, are cherishing the buds, which will gladden and beautify the landscape of September, there is a short season of barrenness over the face of the earth, and nature, for a while, indulges in a short repose from her labors. August seems to be a kind of spring month of the autumnal flowers, the time when they put forth their buds and spread out their foliage over the fading treasures of the past month. When the red lily has fled from the uplands, and the yellow nodding lily from the valleys, and when the last roses are weeping incense over the fading remnants of their lovely tribe, then I know that the glory of summer has departed, and I look not until the coming of the asters and the golden-rods, to see the fields again robed in loveliness and beauty. 
The Boston Weekly Magazine, Volume 1



Haws, persimmons, and papaws also all have a flavor that is distinctly one of autumn, and the taste of fall apples is racier and sweeter than that of those ripening in summer. The elderberry supports its cymes of glossy berries to be the quick food of birds, the sumac paints the fence corners with its vermilion leaves and its antique seed clusters._ Long threads of gossamer float slowly through the air and curl and bend with the least breath. The seeds of the flowers, the weeds, and the trees are being scattered everywhere over the fields, some bare and heavy and going but a short distance, others with silky filaments attached to them, fairy wings to waft them along further on to a resting place at the foot of some tree or among the grasses. Have you ever opened the pod of a milkweed when the seeds were ripe? What a mass of luxuriant, snowy, silvery whiteness and brilliancy! Hundreds of seeds there, all ready to be sent to the winds in the great annual sowing. And hundreds of all kinds of seeds elsewhere also, some to be planted by the birds and the animals, some to be carried on the wheels of wagons or the feet of horses and cattle to other fields or left along the roadside, some to be blown to and fro by every gust, until at last they are lodged unto springtime beneath the snow. The floor of the autumn woods is carpeted in brown with the fallen leaves, dry and crisp, with their edges turned over. They have been tossed about hither and thither, and have drifted into all the hollows and paths and the ruts of the old wood roads. They rustle as we roughly walk through them. If we will only be quiet, perhaps we can hear further away a gray squirrel stepping lightly among the leaves in his search after nuts, or, it may be, concealing them there for his winter use. What stillness there is in the woods! It can almost be felt. The slight crash of the squirrel there as he frisks and jumps about breaks nervously upon the quiet; one thinks the little fellow must almost be afraid of himself. And there is so much repose and restfulness in the autumn woods. To lie among the dry fallen leaves, when those still on the trees are colored in one beautiful combination of yellow and russet and scarlet amid the green, as broad streaks of sunshine slant through the great trees to the brown carpet below, as a leaf twists from its twig and falls and flutters tremblingly everywhither to join the others—surely, then, with the crows overhead, one must feel that autumn is the halcyon time of the whole year. I always think of the fall as the season for I nutting. It is filled with the aroma and zest and tang of nutting time; the woods smell of walnut and hickory and beech and oak. This rich blending of scent from the different varieties is one of the most characteristic delights of autumn. To rub the hull of a walnut or to bruise a leaf from the tree, and then to inhale its odor, so suggestive of boyhood days and the wild, free life of the woods, is a privilege which comes only in‘autumn and is a rare part of it.
An Old-fashioned Sugar Camp, and Other Dreams of the Woods: A Book of the ...
 By Paul Griswold Huston
But although the sun has grown older, and rises later in the morning, although he has lost the youthful vigour which he had in the hours of spring, and the manly force and majesty of summer; he can yet fling fervid beams upon the green hill side, and call forth living creatures of the earth and air; for beauty lives for ever, and is with us still. The autumn crocus is still blooming sweetly lit the meadows, the harebell still hangs out its azure bells to nod dreamily in the sunshine; the wild mint creeps down into moist, shady places, and lures the singing bees with its intoxicating fragrance. The hawkweeds come sprinkling into bloom along the brown pathways, and stand about in their bewilderment gazing upwards at the sky, as though wondering if the sun was only some gigantic golden flower, and the gleaming stars which gem the darkness were such humble blossoms as themselves, planted in the blue meadows of the night. Then there are rich twilight beds of lavender, looking, as the sun goes down, like a phosphorescent sea, rippled all over its surface with crimson-crested waves; and as the night drops down from Heaven, it fades into the sombre purple of the autumn moorland, and with its sweet fragrance sends the very air to sleep. On the arid and barren ground, the large ox-eye daisy stands blinking in the sunshine, with no other green or flowery thing to bear it company but the wild tansy and the knotgrass; and only cheered in its solitude by the merry chirping of the grasshopper, as he skips here and there over the leaves and stems, in the bounding exhilaration of his happy heart. Down beside the stagnant pool, and along the borders of the corn-field, the tall golden rod bares its yellow flowers, and amid the ripening corn the rich crimson pheasant's eye—the rose-a-ruby of the sweet old time—comes into bloom, beside the wild mignonette, and the thread-like spurrey, and the wild marigold.
Eliza Cook's Journal, Volumes 3-4
 By Eliza Cook
Foothill Fall
By Elsinore Robinson Crowell
I HAVE an old brown coat. Within its warp and woof are threads of scarlet, blue and dusty gold. But closer than in woolen web are woven elements more precious far than brilliant threads, which make my shabby coat a garment rare. It is a tramping coat—not worn on measured streets nor for a festive show. But just for wandering, over a stout wool shirt, a battered skirt and hob nailed boots. So out we go, my coat and I.
The hills are good to see. Upon them the October light lies warm and wide. The slow winds rise and fall, fruity with blowing over ripened grass and seed. As pulsing fire, the yellow tar weed spreads abroad in glowing sheets of bloom, with fragrance like some old and mellowed spite. The grasses now are golden and the crisp stubble gleams against the resting earth. No longer are the scrub oaks dully green. Throughout their leaves they, too, are undershot with bronze. It is as if the amber light had entered as a winey life into the trees and fields until they pulse in one rich harmony.
I throw my old coat open'wide as I go down the road. .Deep in its folds the sunshine works its way. And through my veins as through insentient earth the light and color throb. Till I, who thought myself a thing apart from hill and wood—knowing so little of their strength and peace—become again a member of the freer world. I, too, share in the warmth and cheer, the joy of full maturity, the mystic promise of the pregnant soil. One with the heavy grain and fruitful trees, I lift my face up to the sun and sense the joy
of natural toil well done.