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October by Robert Frost

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 by

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A poem to an October morning
1913

Pumpkin  
O hushed October morning mild
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’s sake along the wall.

With this poem, I’m struck most by the sound of it.  I feel like I can hear a voice speaking inside my head as I read.  The voice has a certain timbre, even a kind of music.  Begin the hours of this day slow

A poem to an October morning.  A plea to an October morning.  Slow, slow!

I’m struck by the repetition in this poem.  Whole lines.  Words.  And the repetition of sounds at the end of lines—mild and wild and beguiled.  Fall and all and call.

And then, gradually, new sounds introduced at the end of lines.
The O in go and slow.
The E in brief and leaf.
The A in day.

Recently, I was reading something about toning, the chanting of a series of sounds—especially vowel sounds—to create harmony within the body.  This is not a topic with which I’m terribly familiar but it’s a topic that interests me, and it interests me how it might intersect with poetry.  How reading certain poems—especially aloud—might create or recreate a sense of harmony within the body.

Slow, slow!

I wonder if there’s something about the O sound that slows us down—or that could slow us down.  That could make an October morning seem suspended, as if it were moving in slow motion.  One leaf falling at break of day.  Another at noon.

Slow, slow!

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Of interest:

A recording of Frost reading this poem aloud.  On an excellent site that includes a number of recordings of Frost reading his poetry.

A brief article on vowel sounds and toning from a site called Sound Intentions

A short piece on Mitch Gaynor, an oncologist, who integrates sound healing into his medical practice

The Road Not Taken, a nice book-length selection of Frost's poetry which includes this poem