The autumn season

I saw old Autumn in the misty morn
Stand shadowless like Silence, listening
To silence, for no lonely bird would sing
Into his hollow ear from woods forlorn,
Nor lowly hedge nor solitary thorn;—
Shaking his languid locks all dewy bright
With tangled gossamer that fell by night,
Pearling his coronet of golden corn.
—Thomas Hood, Autumn

Crown’d with the sickle and the wheaten sheaf,
While Autumn, nodding o’er the yellow plain,
Comes jovial on…
—James Thomson, The Seasons

And so it is that, the further north one gets from the Mediterranean, the more the seasons are celebrated, and even personified. But they are hardly mentioned in lyrical fashion by Roman poets. Horace mentions that summer will be over simul pomifer Autumnus fruges effuderit (Odes IV.7.10); but he also mentions (Odes II.14.15) the sickness brought by the Sirocco—Auster—during that season, which Juvenal therefore calls letifer Autumnus (Satires IV.56).

Varro in his Res Rusticae (I.28) is careful to divide the year into hiems, ver, aestas, autumnus. He defines them by the position of the constellations and allots them 91 days each. But his word for them is tempora. Latin has no specific word for season in our modern sense.

The OED reveals that the English word is one that started to appear in the languages of Europe only in the 14th century, and it seems to derive from the Latin satio—the act, or time, of sowing.*

But in English and American writers since then, the seasons are everywhere: they run through the literature like a thread.

‘Tis a month before the month of May,
And the Spring comes slowly up this way.
—Samuel Coleridge, Christabel

In a somer seson, whan softe was the sonne…
—William Langland, The Vision of Piers Plowman

 In the bleak mid-winter,
Frosty wind made moan…
—Christina Rossetti


*The OED also points out that in tropical climes there are just two seasons—dry and rainy.