Charles Fenno Hoffman’s “Indian Summer, 1828”

by Ann Neilson

Although we are many months and several forecasts away from experiencing an “Indian Summer”—should mother nature bestow one upon us this year—I feel this poem is worthy of my “Autumn” series. (Regardless of my bias, being that this was written by my favorite author—) Charles Fenno Hoffman delicately and accurately spins golden worded-webs and autumnal threads throughout this romantic poem. Connecting with personal recollections of childhood, he paints nostalgic images of the woodlands, and strives to remind the reader of nature’s beauty and unchanging devotion. -Ann Neilson

“Indian Summer, 1828”

LIGHT as love’s smile the silvery mist at morn
Floats in loose flakes along the limpid river ;
The blue-bird’s notes upon the soft breeze borne,
As high in air he carols, faintly quiver ;
The weeping birch, like banners idly waving,
Bends to the stream, its spicy branches laving.
Beaded with dew the witch-elm’s tassels
shiver;
The timid rabbit from the furze is peeping.
And from the springy spray the squirrel gayly leaping.

I love thee. Autumn, for thy scenery, ere
The blasts of winter chase the varied dyes
That richly deck the slow declining year ;
I love the splendor of thy sunset skies,
The gorgeous hues that tint each failing leaf
Lovely as beauty’s cheek, as woman’s love too,
brief;
I love the note of each wild bird that flies.
As on the wind he pours his parting lay,
And wings his loitering flight to summer climes
away.

O Nature ! fondly I still turn to thee
With feelings fresh as e’er my chilhood’s were;
Though wild and passion -tost my youth may be,
Toward thee I still the same devotion bear ;
To thee — to thee — though health and hope no more
Life’s wasted verdure may to me restore —
Still — still, childlike I come, as when in prayer
I bowed my head upon a mother’s knee,
And deem’d the world, like her, all truth and purity.*

*It was indicated to me by Netherlands historian Ton F— that an alternative version of the last stanza exists, for which I thank him earnestly. Upon research, I found said stanza in the New York Mirror of September 22, 1832, on page 91, under the pseudonym “H,” a pseudonym (if it may be called one) used frequently by Hoffman in both the New-York Mirror and the American Monthly Magazine (which I will discuss in a later post).

The stanza is as follows,

“Oh, nature! still I fondly turn to thee,
With feelings fresh as e’er my boyhood’s were,
However cold my reckless heart may be,
To thee I still the same devotion bear.
In all life’s changes yet my feelings will
To thee be true, as to his office still
Is he who fixed by right prescriptive there—
(Though even thou shouldst break thy wonted order)—
In every party change yet finds himself “recorder.”