John Keats…TO AUTUMN and his own inevitable winter

To Autumn was one of John Keat’s last poems; he died one year after it was published.  What makes this particular poem so moving is the context in which it was written.  Keats was dying, slowly, from consumption as he wrote this piece.  His focus on autumn, the ripest of all seasons… the time when all life reaches fruition… corresponds with his own condition in such a way!

Keats attempts to trap autumn in all its fullness; to stop the apple from falling from the tree… as he desires to keep himself from his own inevitable winter.  Alas, as the apple falls… so does he.

Happy Birthday John Keats!

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-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 they 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 cider-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.

William Blake’s TO AUTUMN- Summer’s full-bodied Offspring

Autumn- Summer's full-bodied OffspringWilliam Blake’s To Autumn recounts the meeting of the poet and “Autumn”– the offspring of an inebriated Summer.

Autumn is described by the poet as being “stain’d with the blood of the grape”, a reference to wine (the result of grapes reaching full maturity, death and fermentation) and also a reference to being newborn.  The poet asks Autumn to rest and recount the lusty tale of his creation.

Autumn sings of  the rapture of  Summer (his Mother) and her consummation to the poet’s music, “The narrow bud opens her beauties to the sun and love runs in her thrilling veins”…. “Blossoms hand round the brows of morning, and flourish down the bright cheek of modest eve”.

Though Autumn is newborn, his time is fleeting.  Sadly, at the poem’s end, the full bodied offspring of Summer is forced to “gird himself” for the coming Winter and fleas from the poet’s sight “o’er the bleak hills”- leaving only his legacy, his “golden load” behind.

To Autumn, by William Blake

Oh Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain’d
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

“The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hand round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

“The spirits of the air live in the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.”
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

To Autumn, an early poem by William Blake and part of a larger work, Poetical Sketches, was published around 1782.