Marian Carcache: Mrs. Hufham’s gift

Even though Helen Hunt Jackson’s work is not usually taught in literature courses the way her friend and classmate, Emily Dickinson’s poetry is, Jackson’s poem “September” was important enough to me as a child that I borrowed a phrase from it to name this “Lovely Tokens” column.

It was one of the many poems that Mrs. Hufham, my second grade teacher at Western Heights Elementary in Eufaula, assigned our class to memorize. In teaching a seven-year-old to appreciate poetry, Mrs. Hufham gave me a gift that has served me well my whole life.

I have spent many years as either a student or a teacher, or both, so I’ve seen quite a few educational theories and strategies come and go. Mrs. Hufham taught before rubrics and taxonomies, scaffolding and peer review became the fashion of the day. And it is a poem that she assigned in the fall of 1961 that comes round to charm me all over again every September.

September – by Helen Hunt Jackson

The golden-rod is yellow; 

The corn is turning brown; 

The trees in apple orchards 

With fruit are bending down. 

The gentian’s bluest fringes 

Are curling in the sun; 

In dusty pods the milkweed 

Its hidden silk has spun. 

The sedges flaunt their harvest, 

In every meadow nook; 

And asters by the brook-side 

Make asters in the brook. 

From dewy lanes at morning 

the grapes’ sweet odors rise; 

At noon the roads all flutter 

With yellow butterflies. 

By all these lovely tokens 

September days are here, 

With summer’s best of weather, 

And autumn’s best of cheer. 

But none of all this beauty 

Which floods the earth and air 

Is unto me the secret 

Which makes September fair. 

‘Tis a thing which I remember; 

To name it thrills me yet: 

One day of one September 

I never can forget.