by Helen Hunt Jackson
This is the treacherous month when autumn days
With summer’s voice come bearing summer’s gifts.
Beguiled, the pale down-trodden aster lifts
Her head and blooms again. The soft, warm haze
Makes moist once more the sere and dusty ways,
And, creeping through where dead leaves lie in drifts,
The violet returns. Snow noiseless sifts
Ere night, an icy shroud, which morning’s rays
Will idly shine upon and slowly melt,
Too late to bid the violet live again.
The treachery, at last, too late, is plain;
Bare are the places where the sweet flowers dwelt.
What joy sufficient hath November felt?
What profit from the violet’s day of pain?
Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885) was an American poet and activist who championed Native American rights. Born Helen Fiske in Massachusetts, she published poetry under the name “H.H.” starting in the 1860s. Her nature-inspired verses gained popularity, especially the collection “Verses” (1870).
After researching injustices against Native Americans, Jackson became dedicated to their cause. Her 1881 nonfiction exposé “A Century of Dishonor” condemned America’s treatment of indigenous people. Her novel “Ramona” (1884), a tragic romance about a Native American woman, was a bestseller that humanized Native Americans and their struggles.
Through writing and lobbying Congress, Jackson brought greater attention to Native American issues in the 19th century fight for indigenous rights. Though she passed away at age 54, Jackson left a strong legacy as both a creative talent and an activist for Native American justice and citizenship.