“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” was written by the Romantic English poet John Keats, and published 200 years ago this year in his poem To Autumn. It is one of the most famous lines in English poetry, taken from a poem that is widely regarded as one of the most perfect short poems in the English language. The work was composed on an autumnal evening in September as he took a walk from his home in Winchester. Suffering from TB when he wrote it, the poem is interpreted by some as a meditation on death, which gives it a melancholy, poignant tone. A couple of days later he wrote to a friend
"How beautiful the season is now – How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it [...] I never lik'd stubble fields so much as now [...] Somehow a stubble plain looks warm – in the same way that some pictures look warm – this struck me so much in my sunday's walk that I composed upon it."
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.
What I like most about the poem is that it describes autumn as a progression. From the ripening of the fruits and berries, through harvest season to the approach of winter. To me, autumn is under-rated. Spring is about new life - buds, shoots. Lengthening days and warmth. Summer is the golden child - long, hazy days. Holidays. Memories of childhood. Even winter, cold and dark, is punctuated by celebrations - Christmas, Hogmanay, New Year. Autumn can be viewed with despondency, marking the slide from summer to winter, light to dark, warm to cold.
I love walking in the autumn countryside and observing all the changes the season brings. In the images below I've tried to capture Scotland in autumn. Mists and mellow fruitfulness.