Autumn Equinox occurs in the early hours this Saturday, September 23rd (at 2:50 am edt), heralding the full harvest of the year and, ideally, a sense of balance, now the high constellations of Summer have set.
Looking into the sky this week, the asterism of the Summer Triangle moves just past the zenith from directly overhead, and as the nights wear on, it slopes westward, taking the lush greens of Summer over the edge of the world and leaving a vibrant trail of Autumn colors in its wake.
In the early 1800s, the romantic poet John Keats beautifully captured the mood of this season when he wrote that it was with full happiness he would trace the tale of Endymion, by some accounts a shepherd of ancient Greek myth with whom Selene, Titan goddess of the Moon, had fallen in love, when her light fell upon him where he was sleeping at the mouth of a cave.
Keats wrote the poem in rhyming couplets, which lend themselves to the rhythm of the waxing and waning Moon. In the third stanza he muses about the best season in which to complete his epic, which inspires the question: what was my herald thought last Spring, what experience did I have then that now bears fruit? Keats writes:
…O may no wintry season, bare and hoary,
See it half finish’d: but let Autumn bold,
With universal tinge of sober gold,
Be all about me when I make an end.
And now, at once adventuresome, I send
My herald thought into a wilderness:
There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress
My uncertain path with green, that I may speed
Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed.
With you in the universal tinge of sober gold,
You can hear this episode on Interlochen Public Radio Monday morning, September 18, and on podcasts everywhere, at your convenience. The cover image is George Frederic Watts‘ depiction of Selene, like a crescent Moon, a bending sickle come to kiss her beloved Endymion, to whom she had asked Zeus to grant eternal sleep, that they could meet each night in dream.