Tuesday, 4 May 2010

My favourite poem - Ode to Autumn

It would be an impossible task for me to select a favourite book, film, play, painting, sculpture, song, opera, or ballet. The choice is too great. But ever since I was first obliged to read John Keats’s ‘Ode to Autumn’ at school, it has remained my best-loved poem.
There is the beauty of the words themselves as Keats paints a picture of the developing season in the mind of the reader, which engages all the senses. The three stanzas - ripeness, harvest, and the preparation for winter - are perfectly structured.
But what sets the poem apart for me is the poet’s observation that though the songs of spring are gone forever, autumn has its own music. It struck a chord with me as a schoolboy and has a even greater resonance now that I’m that closer to the abyss.
The sadness is Keats’s life was snuffed out so early he never had the chance to experience the insight of his own words.
Here is the poem.

Ode 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 mossed 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'erbrimmed 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-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed 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 redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

1 comment:

  1. Well chosen GC says Jaffa. Note too the huge compression of images, bursting out, line after line. The reader is saturated by and suffused with the poet's detail.

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What do you think? GC