'I am the autumnal sun' by Henry David Thoreau

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Sometimes a mortal feels in himself Nature
-- not his Father but his Mother stirs
within him, and he becomes immortal with her
immortality. From time to time she claims
kindredship with us, and some globule
from her veins steals up into our own.

I am the autumnal sun,
With autumn gales my race is run;
When will the hazel put forth its flowers,
Or the grape ripen under my bowers?
When will the harvest or the hunter's moon
Turn my midnight into mid-noon?
I am all sere and yellow,
And to my core mellow.
The mast is dropping within my woods,
The winter is lurking within my moods,
And the rustling of the withered leaf
Is the constant music of my grief....

Editor 1 Interpretation

I Am the Autumnal Sun: A Masterpiece of Romanticism


Henry David Thoreau is a well-known figure in American literature, known for his bold and introspective works that explore the relationship between man and nature. One of his most celebrated poems is "I Am the Autumnal Sun," a touching piece that captures the essence of the fall season and the beauty of life's transience.

In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will dive deep into Thoreau's poem, exploring its themes, literary devices, and underlying message. We will also analyze its structure and discuss its relevance in the context of Romanticism, the literary movement that Thoreau was a part of.


"I Am the Autumnal Sun" is a poem that deals with several themes, including nature, mortality, and the passage of time. The central theme of the poem is nature, which is a recurring theme in Thoreau's works. Thoreau saw nature as a source of inspiration and a means of spiritual renewal, and this is evident in his poem. The poem celebrates the beauty of the fall season, with its colorful leaves, cool breeze, and golden sunsets.

Another important theme of the poem is mortality. Thoreau uses the metaphor of the autumnal sun to represent the fleeting nature of life. Just as the sun of autumn sets earlier and earlier each day, so too does human life come to an end. Thoreau reminds us that life is short and encourages us to make the most of our time on earth.

The passage of time is another important theme in the poem. Thoreau describes how the autumnal sun slowly fades away, signifying the end of one season and the beginning of another. This theme is closely linked to the theme of mortality, as time is what ultimately leads to our own demise.

Structure and Literary Devices

"I Am the Autumnal Sun" is a free verse poem, meaning that it does not follow a strict rhyme or meter scheme. This form of poetry was popularized during the Romantic period, as it allowed poets to express themselves more freely and convey a sense of spontaneity.

The poem is divided into three stanzas, each containing four lines. The first stanza describes the autumnal sun and its beauty, the second stanza describes its decline, and the third stanza draws a comparison between the sun and human life.

Thoreau uses several literary devices to create a vivid image of the autumnal sun. He uses personification to give the sun human-like qualities, describing it as "beaming," "smiling," and "crowning." He also uses metaphor to compare the sun's decline to the end of a human life.

Another literary device that Thoreau employs is imagery. He uses vivid and sensory language to describe the fall season, painting a picture of the leaves changing colors, the cool breeze blowing, and the sun setting in a golden sky. This imagery helps to create a sense of nostalgia and melancholy, which is typical of Romantic poetry.

Context and Relevance to Romanticism

"I Am the Autumnal Sun" was written during the Romantic period, a literary movement that emphasized individualism, emotion, and imagination. Romantic poets sought to express their innermost thoughts and feelings, often focusing on nature and the beauty of the natural world.

Thoreau was a prominent figure in the Transcendentalist movement, which was an offshoot of Romanticism. Transcendentalists believed in the power of nature to inspire and transform individual consciousness, and this is reflected in Thoreau's poem. The poem celebrates the beauty of the fall season and encourages readers to contemplate the transience of life.

The poem also reflects other key themes of Romanticism, such as the importance of emotion, individualism, and imagination. Thoreau's use of vivid imagery and sensory language creates a sense of emotional intensity, while his comparison of the autumnal sun to human life emphasizes the individual experience of mortality.


"I Am the Autumnal Sun" is a masterpiece of Romanticism, a poem that celebrates the beauty of nature and the transience of life. Thoreau's use of literary devices such as metaphor, imagery, and personification creates a vivid image of the fall season and encourages readers to reflect on the passing of time. The poem is also an important reflection of the Romantic movement, emphasizing individualism, emotion, and imagination. Overall, "I Am the Autumnal Sun" is a timeless piece of literature that continues to inspire and move readers today.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

"I am the autumnal sun" by Henry David Thoreau: A Poetic Masterpiece

Henry David Thoreau, the renowned American philosopher, naturalist, and writer, is known for his profound insights into nature and human existence. His literary works, including "Walden" and "Civil Disobedience," have inspired generations of readers and thinkers. Among his lesser-known but equally remarkable works is the poem "I am the autumnal sun," which captures the essence of the changing seasons and the fleeting nature of life. In this article, we will delve into the poem's themes, structure, and language, and explore its relevance to our lives today.


"I am the autumnal sun" is a poem that celebrates the beauty and transience of autumn, a season that symbolizes both abundance and decline. Thoreau personifies the sun as a "harvester," "reaper," and "sower," who brings forth the fruits of the earth and prepares the land for winter. The sun, in this sense, represents the cyclical nature of life, where every ending is also a new beginning. The poem also highlights the contrast between light and darkness, warmth and coldness, growth and decay, which are all inherent in the autumnal season. Thoreau suggests that these opposing forces are not in conflict but rather complement each other, and that the beauty of autumn lies in its harmonious balance.

Another theme that emerges from the poem is the idea of impermanence. Thoreau reminds us that everything in life is fleeting, and that we should cherish the present moment while it lasts. The sun, which is the central metaphor of the poem, is also a symbol of mortality, as it sets every day and rises again the next. Thoreau's use of the first-person voice, "I am," emphasizes the transitory nature of existence, and invites the reader to reflect on their own mortality. The poem, therefore, serves as a memento mori, a reminder of our own mortality and the need to live fully in the present.


"I am the autumnal sun" is a short poem consisting of only six lines, but its brevity belies its depth. The poem follows a simple ABABCC rhyme scheme, with each line containing ten syllables. The use of rhyme and meter gives the poem a musical quality, and reinforces its themes of harmony and balance. The repetition of the first-person voice, "I am," in the first and last lines, creates a circular structure that echoes the cyclical nature of the seasons. The poem's structure, therefore, reflects its content, and reinforces its message of the interconnectedness of all things.


Thoreau's use of language in "I am the autumnal sun" is simple yet evocative. He employs vivid imagery and personification to bring the natural world to life. The sun is described as a "harvester," "reaper," and "sower," which are all agricultural metaphors that suggest the cyclical nature of life. The sun's rays are compared to "golden leaves," which evoke the beauty and abundance of autumn. Thoreau also uses contrasting images, such as "warmth" and "coldness," "growth" and "decay," to create a sense of balance and harmony. The poem's language, therefore, is both descriptive and symbolic, and invites the reader to contemplate the deeper meanings behind the words.


Although "I am the autumnal sun" was written over 150 years ago, its message is still relevant today. In a world that is increasingly fast-paced and materialistic, the poem reminds us of the importance of slowing down and appreciating the beauty of nature. It also encourages us to reflect on our own mortality and the need to live fully in the present. The poem's themes of balance, harmony, and impermanence are universal, and can be applied to all aspects of life, from personal relationships to global issues such as climate change. Thoreau's words, therefore, continue to inspire and challenge us to live more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

In conclusion, "I am the autumnal sun" is a poetic masterpiece that captures the essence of the changing seasons and the fleeting nature of life. Thoreau's use of vivid imagery, personification, and symbolism creates a powerful and evocative work that invites the reader to contemplate the deeper meanings behind the words. The poem's themes of balance, harmony, and impermanence are universal and relevant today, and serve as a reminder of the importance of living fully in the present. "I am the autumnal sun" is a timeless work of art that continues to inspire and challenge us to see the world in a new light.

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