What is inspiration? Where do artists, poets, find ideas for their creations? Where do the most beautiful masterpieces come from? This is a vast question, but for many artists, there is one very simple answer: you just have to open your eyes and observe the world around you.
Thus, authors and poets find a never-ending source of inspiration in autumn, observing Nature at this time of the year, and we can feel it directly in their writings.
At the end of the 18th century, François-René de Chateaubriand, prior to the Romantics of the following decades, recounts his perception of an « Autumn night » in an eponymous poem.
After describing the surrounding Nature, the poet speaks of:
« The moon, carried away
To other climates,
Will not show
Its silvery side. »
Therefore, autumn is a good time for travel, imaginary travel, escape…
Indeed, if the Moon changes its trajectory in the sky, everything seems to announce a huge change of world between the hot summer months and the biting cold of winter, for which everything seems to be preparing.
Because the Moon is not the only element moving towards “other climates”. In September, the swallows gather together, ready to set off on a very long journey for such small creatures, until they reach warmer climates.
In Champagne, the cranes take off on a similar journey, from the Nordic countries and through the whole Europe. As Chateaubriand recounts, Nature is getting ready, and something is coming.
First of all, in autumn, colours become the most beautiful. Alphonse de Lamartine, a great Romantic poet, speaks directly to autumn, and welcomes it warmly:
« Hello! Woods crowned with the last green elements!
Foliage getting yellow on the scattered lawns!
Hello to the last beautiful days! Nature’s mourning
Is suitable for pain and pleases my eyes! »
Thus, Lamartine celebrates the beautiful colours appearing in the forest, and gives a last tribute to the hot summer sun. Nature seems to have absorbed all of this heat and to give it back through the leaves of the trees. The poet expresses a positive vision of this season, a dynamic vision.
At the same time, Victor Hugo, the French monument of literature, nicknamed « the large crocodile » by Flaubert, was of course inspired and felt penetrated by all the light emanating from the last days of the setting sun, when Nature appears in an orange light, showing the most beautiful colours.
In the early 19th century, light effects on the wilderness became very important in the artistic production.
In painting, like in literature, the artists often described light as a reflection of their emotions or moods. Hugo gave the name « The Autumn leaves » to a whole collection of six poems entitled « Sunsets ».
« This evening, the sun has set behind the clouds;
Tomorrow, the storm will come, and the evening, and the night;
Then dawn and the clarity of misty fog;
Then the nights, then the days, not time, running away!
All these days will pass on, they will pass on massively
Over the face of the seas, over the face of the mountains,
Over silver rivers, over rolling forests
Like a confusing requiem of the dead ones that we love.
And the face of the waters, and the brow of the mountains,
Wrinkled but never old; and woods forever green
Will carry on, once again young; the country river
Will always take its water from the mounts and give it to the seas.
But me, bending my head lower each day,
I am passing through, and feeling cold beneath that joyful sun,
Soon, I shall depart in the midst of celebration,
And nothing will be missing to the vast and radiant world! »
A few years later, once the Romantic era had passed, autumn was still a great source of inspiration for poets, still leading to the most beautiful literature artworks.
In 1866, Paul Verlaine published the collection « Poems from Saturn », in which « The autumn song » powerfully resonates. This poem evokes the wind, the falling leaves, with a slightly less positive point of view on the season, and with a structure imitating the movement of the leaves.
While reading the poem, the eyes of the reader sway gently from left to right and from right to left, gradually going down like an orange-coloured leave falling slowly from its tree. It is actually quite interesting to precise that the conception of poetry evolved under the influence of Verlaine. From then on, the language was no longer a simple tool to describe reality or to express the imagination of the poet, but writing became a graphic art, able to visually represent the subject of the poem.
The text then becomes even more magnetics as it can be listened to, read or looked at with the same intensity.
« The long sobbing
Of the violins
Hurt my heart
With a languor
And pale, when
The time comes,
The good old days
And I cry
And there I go
Through some bad wind
Taking me away
Here, and there,
A dead leaf. »
The first stanza is also famous as it was used as a message announcing, on the 5th of June, 1944, the imminent arrival of the Allied Forces before the Liberation. On the following years, this poem widely inspired the artistic creation, all through the 20th century and right up to nowadays.
Charles Trenet and Léo Ferret, as well as Serge Gainsbourg were inspired by this poem and made it into a song.
Therefore, autumn is full of life, of hope and strength! Far from being a dead season, autumn requires people to be very active, especially in the Champagne region.
Indeed, the beginning of autumn is the moment of the grape harvest, when grapes are collected in order to make wine or champagne.
Verlaine, clearly extremely inspired by this season, gave a tribute to the workers and to this tradition, mixing wine and blood in his poem « Grape harvest ».
« The things singing into our head
When our memory is gone,
Listen! This is our blood that sings…
O distant and discreet music!
Listen! This is our blood that cries
When our soul is gone away,
Of a voice we never heard before
And that will shut up later on.
Brother of the blood of the rose vine,
Brother of the black vein wine,
O wine, O blood, this is the apotheosis!
Sing, Cry! Chase away the memory
And chase away the soul, and to the darkness
Magnetise our poor vertebrae. »
In this poem, Verlaine used a very common metaphor in literature, associating wine and blood. Often used as a Christ metaphor, linked to the Christian religion and to the Christ, Verlaine went beyond this symbolism to express the vital value of blood and wine, two liquids that irrigate our body and the French regions, including the Champagne region, to give them life, through tradition and vitality.
To conclude this autumn stroll, the artistic spirit of Guillaume Apollinaire was also greatly influenced by the changing seasons and their sceneries.
In the poem « Autumn crocus », he described one of these sceneries, an autumn landscape. He described a misty hill in which a few peaceful cows graze quietly, surrounded by tall grass with purple details, which are the autumn crocus bloomed at this season. However, this poetic and soothing vision is also very strong.
While evoking these deadly poisonous flowers, there is still a peaceful feeling emanating from this text, as Apollinaire wrote about a quiet and gentle Nature, addressing her directly.
The words he chose show how this misty landscape evoked kindness to him, with these little purple flowers, reminding of the eyes of a woman, of good memories, of time gone by, of memories in which he seems to gently sink.
« The meadow is poisonous but beautiful in autumn
The cows grazing there
Slowly get poisoned
The dark-and-lilacs-coloured autumn crocus
Bloom, your eyes are like that flower
Purple like their ring and like this autumn
And my life for your eyes slowly gets poisoned
Children come back from school noisily
Dressed in heavy jackets and playing the harmonica
They pick the autumn crocus that are like mothers
Daughters of their daughters and the colour of your eyelids
Beating like the flowers beat in the crazy wind
The herdsman sings softly
As the slow and mooing cows give up
Forever on this big meadow in a bad autumn bloom »
Thus, autumn is a good season for poets and artists inspiration, so do not hesitate! Remember these beautiful colours, grab your pens, your brushes, your colours, and create your own vision of autumn, because little by little, winter will come!
Head and feature photo: Sweetheart © Rebekka