“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”
Last year about this time, one of the list’s readers responded to an all-time favorite autumn poem from Gerard Manley Hopkins – – who pretty regularly knocks me flat with wonder. The email contained John Keats’ early 19th-century romantic poem without comment. That reader reminded me, as list readers often do, of a poet I had not noticed for a while. No scolding either; as in “how can you have overlooked Keats!” Since then, Keats works on my imagination this time of year. I’m in his debt for this near-perfect evocation of mid-autumn blustering East/North East winds and rain.
During this year, with its avalanches of relentless news stories, I am hearing — in conversations with generous-hearted companions who find the courage, again and again, to pay attention to the wounds of the world and call out powerful and stark images of the state of the present world. One soul friend, when I asked, “tell me how you are these weeks,” told me: “my cough has been very tough, mostly because of the clouds of smoke from the raging fires around us.” She said, “sometimes this feels like the end of the world. . .” But then we tell each other stories of tenderness and hope in and for this same hard world.
Telling each other stories restores and refreshes our hopes and imaginations: we rise from our fears and begin again to embrace our world.
Best to read “to autumn” several times out loud with pauses.
Have a blest week.
Today’s Post “To Autumn” John Keats
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.
31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821