Sunday Best – September 24, 2017

Autumn equinox is a curious turning – a quiet, muted shift.

In spring we rejoice that the long winter is nearing its end, and at the solstices there’s an expansiveness, either of endless day or burrowed-down night. But autumn, alongside the abundance of harvest, brings the promise of darkness to come. The plenty right next to the scarcity. It’s the sober equinox, the grown-up, more grounded version of its bouncy vernal sister.

Keats’ To Autumn is a natural accompaniment to the season, and yet this glorious poem is sometimes met with a jaded world-weariness. Saying you love this poem is like saying you love the Beatles, or Michaelangelo. Sure, genius, but duuuuuh! You can practically hear the rolling of sophisticated eyeballs in their sockets.

(To be fair to the Jaded Ones, whenever I read the first line, I picture it as reprised by Renée Zellweger and Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones’ Diary.)

Keats? So overdone. So predictable. So last century. Actually, so last-last century. Sigh.

To which I say, snap out of it! If it is good enough for Helen Vendler and Seamus Heaney, it’s good enough for us.

Sit with a glass of wine. Watch the stubble-plains grow rosy. Listen to the hedge crickets’ song. Rejoice in the music of the season. Watch the last oozings. Revel in them.


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-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 twinéd 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 barréd 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.

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