“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”
Often considered to be one of the greatest poems in the English language, the title and the first few lines of the poem show that Keats’ poem is actually addressed to the season of Autumn itself, as if Autumn were a person. Denny Bradbury, in her poems “Kingcup and Friends “ and “Winter Soul” from her new collection’De~versify’, does a similar thing, referring to the season of winter and numerous flowers as though they are people who have the answers themselves:
“Kingcup, forget-me-not,dead-nettle white:
Struggling, reaching, searching for the light.
Clover, daisy, dead-nettle pink.
Look at us,
Let us make you think.”.. ~ ‘Kingcup and Friends’
“Crisp, clear air of deepest winter,
Sky streaked so with pastel hue
Dig into my soul with icy finger,
Make my heart with leaden blue…” ~ ‘Winter Soul’.
Each of Keats’ three eleven line stanzas consist almost entirely of descriptions of Autumn: “close bosom-friend of the maturing sun”; “sitting careless on the granary floor” ; “thou hast thy music too” with the first and third stanzas describing some of Autumn’s perceptible features whilst the second stanza takes the idea of Autumn being a person one step further, describing how Autumn can be found sitting in the barn, sleeping out in the fields and watching patiently as cider oozes out of a cider press. Is Keats actually addressing Autumn as a person or is he in fact addressing the readers themselves?
As Denny Bradbury does in her poem “Wisdom of Trees” with the final stanza being:
“Yet trees will reach their searching branches
Up into the wind and rain –
They live and die as nature dances.
Net year they grow and live again…”
So too does “To Autumn” both evoke a sensual awareness and pleasure at the beauty that exists in the natural world whilst at the same time expressing a sadness that that beauty is not lasting – “the soft-dying day”.
Just as Denny Bradbury‘s poems reflect the need for balance between nature and people and a sometime-forgotten spirituality, it is characteristic of Keats’ poetry as a whole to also blend an optimistic romanticism with the reality of a world that any enchantment provided by myth is in contrast to the way life really is.