Wednesday, September 29, 2010

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

There's a line to put you at your ease. It's the opening line of "To Autumn." by John Keats. Makes me want to find a field—why not Hampstead Heath?—and drink to autumn, to Keats, to fruitfulness, with a nice Pinot Grigio and, if I'm not overdoing it, Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony playing somewhere nearby.

The poem goes on to extol autumn's conspiring with its bosom-friend, the sun

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

Two friends emailed me this poem yesterday. Nicole in Boston, then a few hours later, Josh in Long Island. A nice coincidence. They don't know each other, although I suspect they are kindred spirits. Attentive to the kind, red spirits who color the leaves of sugar maple trees and the Macintosh apples (except for the green leaf shadows) with special red crayons.

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.

This is a busy, lazy season Keats describes. Swelling, plumping; sitting, sleeping; watching, half-reaping. I picture a lot of yellowjackets around that cyder-press, drunk on the oozings. I also wonder if Keats ever heard Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. He would have been a teenager when it was first performed, so it's possible. There's that brook motif in the second movement, and the brook here. Both autumnal, eh, fellas?

John and Ludwig, both drunk as yellowjackets, nod and wink as if keepers of a great secret, their arms thrown around each other companionably. They hoist an ale together. "To Autumn!" says John to Ludwig, with an affectionate grin. "Bis Herbst!" rejoins Ludwig. Down the hatch! No pun intended. I think I'll leave them there, singing the brook motif from the second movement. Feel free to sing along.

1 comment:

  1. I love that line
    "Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind"

    Notice the FT-FT and WIN-WIN in there. How poetic is that?