We have entered the Autumn season of gold and red, frost and waning afternoon sunshine. When I walk among the falling leaves, I think the English Romantic poet, John Keats, who penned his last major work in 1819. “To Autumn” is a profound tribute to the season that bids farewell to summer and awaits the winter stillness.
John Keats describes Autumn’s abundance and employs intense, sensuous imagery to elevate the fleeting beauty of the moment. Written after an evening walk near Winchester, I sense in his words a poignant goodbye.
With money running out, John Keats traveled to Rome to save his life. Just over a year after he wrote To Autumn, John Keats died in Rome on February 23 1821. He was 25 years old.
He wrote to his friend John Hamilton Reynolds, describing the scene that inspired him to write To Autumn:
How beautiful the season is now—How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather—Dian skies—I never liked stubble-fields so much as now—Aye better than the chilly green of the Spring. Somehow, a stubble-field looks warm—in the same way that some pictures look warm. This struck me so much in my Sunday’s walk that I composed upon it.
Join me in reciting To Autumn by 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.
A special thanks to Paul Andruss for suggesting that I welcome the arrival of Autumn with the poem To Autumn by John Keats