To Autumn | John Keats #Poetry

There is nothing new or surprising about sharing such an iconic poem at this time of year. But it has been on my mind the past few weeks. Every time we drive to the mountains, I find myself saying ’tis the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ under my breath, combining two popular seasonal lines in one, as I admire the glorious autumn trees around us!

I’m not the only.

The stylish, on trend instagrammers are also streaming to the mountains every weekend for their best-ever #autumnvibes pic. They arrive in glamorous autumnal themed clothing and spend their time tossing leaves and posing elegantly for their photographers/stylists. It can be quite a production and amuses the locals no end!

To Autumn was also the poem that turned me onto poetry as a young adult.

One May, early in my teaching career, I attended a conference at the university in Bathurst. The presenter could not resist quoting the first stanza of this poem after we had all driven into town through a foggy autumnal blaze of orange and yellow and red. She referred to Keats as an ‘eloquent distiller of language’. Listening to someone, with beautiful annunciation, recite a classic poem like this was a real treat I’ve never forgotten.

To Autumn 
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-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.

Written September 1819
First published 1820
Photos are mine – Blackheath May 2021

This post is part of A Poem For a Thursday with Jennifer @Holds Upon Happiness.

9 thoughts on “To Autumn | John Keats #Poetry

  1. Beautiful poem and blogpost!
    “…let the sunlight settle on me
    …and feel my body sigh.”
    (Jessica Anderson, her short story ” The Late Sunlight”, 1987)

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  2. Not for me Brona. To be writing like that when Jane Austen was writing in the clearest of plain English. Here’s one for new teachers in 2021: They drove sheep/onto patchy runs, planted seed in a land with no seasons./They gave new names to our rivers and creeks. New laws/defied our old beliefs… The Bathurst Plain, Brenda Saunders (from Guwayu – For all Times)
    In passing, my sister in law has recently retired as head of the Education faculty at CSU, Bathhurst – I wonder how she greeted new students.

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    1. This poem highlights the importance of how one is first introduced to a poem.

      I have since tried to read other poems by Keats, with little joy, for the very reason you state. But because I first heard To Autumn being recited in the way that I did, on the right day, in the right mood, it worked its magic. And continues to do so 🙂

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    1. At the time it gave me shivers of joy. It fitted the mood and tone of the day beautifully and I still look out for books and authors that I can say the same thing about.

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  3. I love this poem and I also think of it at the start of every autumn (though at the moment we are just having very autumnal weather despite heading into summer). One of my favourites as a child or maybe in my early teens, though I’m sure I didn’t understand half of it at the time!

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    1. The rest of the poem feels quite alien to me and my experience of autumn. We don’t have a lot of foggy or misty days at this time of year. We mostly have cool nights and mornings, brightening into lovely blue-skied days, framed by autumn tress slowly baring their branches.

      Thatch-eves and moss’d cottages are not part of our landscape at all.

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