To Autumn, John Keats

Ah, well it is a bit of a cliche this poem, at least the first line, and feels amiss not to include this particularly given how wonderful and gorgeous autumn has been this week. Frosty and misty mornings of course put me in mind of this poem. I first studying this poem at secondary school when I was doing English Lit A-level and then went on to study the Romantics as part of my Masters, although they weren’t my first love in terms of literature – Renaissance and seventeenth-century much more my thing. I found Wordsworth and co a bit too intense and navel gazing for me 😉 although I still have a soft spot for tragic Keats. And this poem, although so hackneyed in a way, is lovely to read in its entirety. It is so evocative and now a joy for me to read after studying the life out of it all those years ago. I was discussing this with my eldest daughter yesterday who was complaining that English sucked all the joy out of reading and how she hated poetry. Coming back to this all these years later it is gratifying to read the poem just for itself, although I have to resist the impulse to do a quick bit of lit crit! One advantage of lockdown and working from home is that I feel I have had more time to enjoy the forest in almost daily walks and appreciate the changes and deep of autumn in all its glory. It is my favourite season.

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and less
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set the budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid they store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast they music too, —
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Written, September 9th 1819, published 1820

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