About twenty years ago right about now, I was entering the third year of my four-year slacker-paced BA in English Lit. I can’t say I have carried the literary banner high since about then, especially as law just about killed my ability to read books – as being an usher in a playhouse just about killed my ability to sit through a play or a movie. But, this being the first summer since 1991 that I have not spent September picking beans, digging up spuds or braiding onions, one poem kicks tricking its way into my mind: Keats’s Ode to Autumn. [Once, when absent mindedly signing up for seminars, one of the others, all-female in romantic poetry, tuned and said – “sorry, I took the last Keats”. I couldn’t recall when I had been aleing with her. I had thought she said “Keith’s”] So, in honour of three years of English Lit classes, the impending season and our planning for the next garden plot in, maybe, 2005, here you are, copyright-free ’cause he’s a long time dead.
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.
Hmmm… full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn… time for the mint sauce.