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-eaves 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 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 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.
(September 19, 1819)
This is thought to be the most anthologized poem in the English language, and I can certainly see why. It is a beautiful portrait of the fall season. John Keats (1795-1821) wrote this poem in Winchester in mid-September 1819, and in a letter to his friend, J.H. Reynolds, on September 21st, he said--
"How beautiful the season is now--How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather--Dian skies--I never lik'd stubble fields so much as now--Aye better than the chilly green of the spring. Somehow a stubble plain 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..."A lot of folks have interpreted this poem as an allegory of artistic creation, a meditation on death, or even some form of political statement; and maybe it is all of those things, I really don't know. I just know that it is an absolutely beautiful poem that is pretty much perfectly constructed. It is an example, in my humble opinion, of Keats' consummate skill in achieving poetic perfection in writing odes. These three stanzas, each with eleven lines (versus the 'normal' ten lines), written in iambic pentameter, with a pair of rhyming couplets in each stanza just above the last line. This is just classic from start to finish. Read it a couple of times slowly. Even better, read it aloud to yourself and fully experience the lyricism and rhythms. You'll get it, and all of the sudden you'll determine that you want to read more of Keats' poetry. You won't be disappointed, I promise.
(Letters of John Keats. A Selection, ed. Robert Gittings, 1970)
The photograph I've attached to this posting is one I took a couple of years ago on a late-fall afternoon outside of Lincoln, Nebraska. This photograph of the recently harvested Nebraska corn-field reminds me of the light of "..the soft-dying day..." touching "...the stubble-plains with rosy hue..." that Keats described so eloquently in this poem. If you like, please do 'click' on the photograph for a larger view. Enjoy the photograph and the poem!