Harvest Time

By John Jay Chapman

Behold, the harvest is at hand;
And thick on the encircling hills
The sheaves like an encampment stand,
Making a martial fairy-land
That half the landscape fills.
The plains in colors brightly blent
Are burnished by the standing grain
That runs across a continent.
In sheets of gold or silver stain
Or red as copper from the mine,
The oats, the barley, and the buckwheat shine.
Autumn has pitched his royal tent,
And set his banner in the field;
Where blazes every ornament
That beamed in an heraldic shield.
He spreads his carpets from the store
Of stuffs the richest burghers wore,
When velvet-robed, and studded o’er
With gems, they faced their Emperor.
A wind is in the laughing grain
That bends to dodge his rough caress,
Knowing the rogue will come again
To frolic with its loveliness.
And in the highways drifts a stream
Of carts, of cattle, and of men;
While scythes in every meadow gleam,
And Adam sweats again.
In the young orchard forms are seen
With throats thrown open to the breeze,
To reap the rye that lies between;
And sickles hang on apple-trees,
Half hidden in the glossy leaves,
And pails beside the reapers lie;
While sturdy yokels toss the sheaves,
And hats are cocked and elbows ply,
And blackbirds rise to cloud the sky
In swarms that chatter as they fly.
From field to field each shady lane
Is strown and traced with wisps of hay,
Where gates lie open to the wain
That creaks upon its toiling way.
And little children, dumb with pride,
Upon the rocking mountain ride,
While anxious parents warn;
And farm-boys guide the lazy team
Till it shall stand beneath the beam
That spans the gaping barn.
The harvest to its cavern sinks,
While shafts of sunlight probe the chinks
And fumes of incense rise.
Then, as the farmers turn the latch,
Good-natured Autumn smiles to watch
The triumph in their eyes.
His gifts, from many a groaning load,
Are heaved and packed, and wheeled and stowed
By gnomes that hoard the prize.
The grist of a celestial mill,
Which man has harnessed to his will,
In one bright torrent falls to fill
The greedy granaries.
Beneath that annual rain of gold
Kingdoms arise, expand, decay;
Philosophers their mind unfold
And poets sing, and pass away.
Forever turns the winnowing fan:
It runs with an eternal force,
As run the planets in their course
Behind the life of man.
Little we heed that silent power,
Save as the gusty chaff is whirled,
When Autumn triumphs for an hour,
And spills his riches on the world.

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