Poetry: Keats – To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
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 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 thy 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,
Drows’d 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 cyder-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 thy 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 red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Perhaps this has been made evident from my other choices of poems, but I love works on nature and time. I love the interweaving of the two, the reflections, the simple elements that place their reminders throughout the day as we walk this world. And this is most true in poems about Autumn, or at least, I feel it most strongly now! For as I sit here, the breeze is billowing the curtains, the leaves rustle by our window, and I see the hints of color in the trees, though nothing like I am used to. I feel as though I need a cup of hot chocolate and some sort of spiced bread for a day like today, and moreso as I read “To Autumn.”

Everything about this poem is lovely. It is true, real, and heartfelt. Even if I was in the darkest part of winter or the height of summer, I think if I closed my eyes, I would be transported to this season when I read this poem. Look now, and see the mists and ending harvest. See how the season conspires with the sun to grow this bounty, to fill each fruit and plant, to prepare for the reflecting season of Spring. What a reflective poem!

And now Autumn is not just this friend that grows but the elements of harvest itself. The chaff and drying flowers, the last person bringing in what has been spared for them, the softly passing day. Yes, Autumn is marked by its own seasons as well. The watchful growing, the harvest sun, the preparing for next Spring, and the dusty evenings. Autumn is a time unto itself.

But now we ask Autumn, “Where has the time gone? Why has it suddenly grown so quiet?” Yet we are not too worried, for here we have new songs: That of the flying birds and rustling winds, of harvest dances and firelit nights. And there are new beauties as well, new colors in a mirror of Spring. Look now at the goldening sky, the pinks to etch the stalks of grain. Yes, that which was born in Spring is now full grown to Autumn; so too do the notes change from high to low. Such beauty, such perfection captured in the slowly setting sun of the season, the year, the time for us.

But Autumn is not the end, and Keats hints at that. Each verse, though speaking to Autumn, reminds us of Spring. Though the hours pass and the days grow short, though we grow older and time wears on, there is hope. There is a new season of life coming just around the corner even as we enjoy the one were blessed with now. So I love this poem for its beauty and for its lovely depiction of my favorite season. And I love it for the hope it brings even as the poem closes at nightfall.

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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