Ode to Autumn

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-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.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Supertradmom says:

    my favorite Autumn poem, which I sent to my friends via e-mail a few weeks ago–

    the great simplicity and pathos of harvest and melancholy–

    Have you ever visited the Keats’ Museum at the bottom of the Spanish Steps in Rome? Is it still there?

  2. Denis Crnkovic says:

    Supertradmom: It was still there last fall. I don’t imagine they have removed it. There was grass growing on the roof, though.

    I must admit that in my current sleepy mode I have in my head pictures of swallows, darting about the evening skies, furiously twittering each other on their mobiles…

  3. Malta says:

    Beautiful–as jaded as I am, after years of seeing the ugliness in life, as both a firefighter and in law enforcement, that post soothes; the link attached is also a wonderful book, but different. Hopkins died young, but “lived-hard,” poetically:


    But this book largely passes-over Hopkin’s, arguably, greatest poetic-work, “The Grandeur of God:”

    THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
    Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
    Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; 5
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
    Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

    And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; 10
    And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
    Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

  4. geoff jones says:

    Love it mate!

    I don’t read enough poetry so these posts are always welcome!

  5. nhaggin says:

    I love this ode, but it still seems odd that Keats, with his piercing oxymoronic vision, should write only about the cheerful aspect of autumn. Since I’ve been listening to the Vier Letzte Lieder lately, here’s Hermann Hesse to provide the other half:

    Der Garten trauert,
    kühl sinkt in die Blumen der Regen.
    Der Sommer schauert
    still seinem Ende entgegen.

    Golden tropft Blatt um Blatt
    nieder vom hohen Akazienbaum.
    Sommer lächelt erstaunt und matt
    in den sterbenden Gartentraum.

    Lange noch bei den Rosen
    bleibt er stehn, seht sich nach Ruh.
    Langsam tut er die großen,
    müdgewordenen Augen zu.

    Or, auf Englisch:

    The garden mourns;
    The rain sinks coolly into the flowers.
    Summer shivers softly
    Upon meeting his end.

    Leaf upon golden leaf drops
    Down from the high acacia tree;
    Summer smiles, astonished and faint,
    In the dying garden-dream.

    A while yet by the roses
    He tarries and yearns for peace.
    Slowly he closes
    His great, weary eyes.

  6. nhaggin says:

    And “Ruh” should have been translated “rest” rather than “peace.” It’s past my bedtime.

  7. Jon says:

    And my favorite song to my favorite time of year:


    Look, how those steep woods on the mountain’s face
    Burn, burn against the sunset; now the cold
    Invades our very noon: the year’s grown old,
    Mornings are dark, and evenings come apace.
    The vines below have lost their purple grace,
    And in Forreze the white wrack backward rolled,
    Hangs to the hills tempestuous, fold on fold,
    And moaning gusts make desolate all the place.

    Mine host the month, at thy good hostelry,
    Tired limbs I’ll stretch and steaming beast I’ll tether;
    Pile on great logs with Gascon hand and free,
    And pour the Gascon stuff that laughs at weather;
    Swell your tough lungs, north wind, no whit care we,
    Singing old songs and drinking wine together.

    ~ Hilaire Belloc

  8. Jon says:

    Ah, and Father, allow me to be the first, although five days early, to wish you a Happy BIG 5 – 0!

    Back in the COL days, when half of the planet didn’t get in on the act, I could get up early on the very day and claim the honor of being the first. But since we now live in blodom, I’ve got to get a premature start, as you’ve probably been getting birthday cards for the last six months!

    Besides, attaining the final year of one’s fifth decade by Bellocian standards demands at least a week-end long celebration. May the toasts begin!

  9. Jon says:

    Um, of course that line should read “bloGdom.”

  10. I’ll share one of my favorite poems, which mentions Keats’ “To Autumn”; this is a good Fall poem, but works year-round.

    by Galway Kinnell

    I eat oatmeal for breakfast.
    I make it on the hot plate and put skimmed milk on it.
    I eat it alone.
    I am aware it is not good to eat oatmeal alone.
    Its consistency is such that it is better for your mental health if somebody eats it with you.
    That is why I often think up an imaginary companion to have breakfast with.
    Possibly it is even worse to eat oatmeal with an imaginary companion.
    Nevertheless, yesterday morning, I ate my oatmeal—porridge, as he called it—with John Keats.

    Keats said I was absolutely right to invite him: due to its glutinous texture, gluey lumpishness, hint of slime, and unusual willingness to disintegrate, oatmeal should not be eaten alone.
    He said that in his opinion, however, it is perfectly OK to eat it with an imaginary companion,
    and that he himself had enjoyed memorable porridges with Edmund Spenser and John Milton.
    Even if eating oatmeal with an imaginary companion is not as wholesome as Keats claims, still, you can learn something from it.

    Yesterday morning, for instance, Keats told me about writing the “Ode to a Nightingale.”
    He had a heck of a time finishing it—those were his words—”Oi ‘ad a ‘eck of a toime,” he said, more or less, speaking through his porridge.
    He wrote it quickly, on scraps of paper, which he then stuck in his pocket,
    but when he got home he couldn’t figure out the order of the stanzas, and he and a friend spread the papers on a table, and they made some sense of them, but he isn’t sure to this day if they got it right.
    An entire stanza may have slipped into the lining of his jacket through a hole in the pocket.
    He still wonders about the occasional sense of drift between stanzas,
    and the way here and there a line will go into the configuration of a Moslem at prayer, then raise itself up and peer about, and then lay itself down slightly off the mark, causing the poem to move forward with a reckless, shining wobble.

    He said someone told him that later in life Wordsworth heard about the scraps of paper on the table, and tried shuffling some stanzas of his own, but only made matters worse.
    I would not have known about any of this but for my reluctance to eat oatmeal alone.

    When breakfast was over, John recited “To Autumn.”
    He recited it slowly, with much feeling, and he articulated the words lovingly, and his odd accent sounded sweet.

    He didn’t offer the story of writing “To Autumn,” I doubt if there is much of one.
    But he did say the sight of a just-harvested oat field got him started on it,
    and two of the lines, “For Summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cells” and “Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours,” came to him while eating oatmeal alone.
    I can see him—drawing a spoon through the stuff, gazing into the glimmering furrows, muttering.
    Maybe there is no sublime; only the shining of the amnion’s tatters.

    For supper tonight I am going to have a baked potato left over from lunch.
    I am aware that a leftover baked potato is damp, slippery, and simultaneously gummy and crumbly,
    and therefore I’m going to invite Patrick Kavanagh to join me.

  11. irishgirl says:

    Steve-that is so cool, inviting someone famous to eat oatmeal with you!

    Jon-I’ll join you in wishing Fr. Z a ‘happy big 5-0’, too!

  12. Jason C. says:

    The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

    I love this first line of that poem. I don’t know if Hopkins intended it, but I like the idea of the world not only being “charged” in an energetic sense, but also “charged” in a legal sense: i.e., the world bears witness against us because we see God’s grandeur all around us and yet still do not “reck his rod.”

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