Monday, 1 November 2010

Seasons of mist...


John Keats, 'To Autumn'

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 ground, 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.

I was wandering back along the lane from my neighbours house this evening trying to summon up the words that would do justice to the world around me. Suddenly I was struck by the realisation that I had stumbled into John Keats’s poem ‘To Autumn’. Now it’s been a good 35 years since I studied this poem at school, and as I tried to draw long forgotten stanzas from the depths of ‘o’ level memories, fleeting words reappeared whilst whole lines played just outside by consciousness. I remembered the embarrassment at having to read the word ‘bosom’ out loud and a faint nausea at the thought of the ground swelling. I also know that the poet was describing early September and not the first of November but somehow so much of this verse describes this valley this evening so perfectly. I am used to seeing the dips in the landscape filled with mist (or more accurately for this time of year - fog) in the early morning. But as the sun was setting it reflected on pockets of low lying cloud in the lower valleys beyond our own. The vines around our living room window are heavy with fruit that I really should have harvested several weeks back. Now they have swollen to the point of bursting and, departing from a poetic vision for just a moment, I will have to get the Windolene out soon to wipe off the smears of exploded grape from the French windows. We have ‘moss’d cottage trees’ a plenty here and as I drive 100 metres in any direction I am bound to leave a trail of apple juice as my tyres mulch the wind falls – not long until the smell of cider permeates the morning air. Unfortunately the quinces have been filled with ripeness to beyond their core (again, an oversight on my part had left them a tad too long before collection) and are now brightening the lawn in the orchard with their yellow, decaying bulk. The raspberries have decided to have one last bash at fruiting before winter arrives and provided me with little snacks as I transplanted black currants and gooseberries in the potager. This is the land of plenty!

Just re-reading the poem and picking up on some pertinent words – ‘swell’, ‘plump’ and yes, ‘bosom’, makes me think of a picture that I was given by one of the artists here two weeks ago. Christine Angell painted ‘The lady of the cake’ – a play on Tennysons ‘The lady of the lake’. I love this painting, this is a woman who, to my mind, has had too much of everything good in life. She positively bursts with energy and exudes joie de vivre. She has certainly been blessed, and, I feel I have too.

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