No problems choosing a literary work for this week’s theme as Rebecca has done it for me, taking the first line from John Keats’ beloved poem To Autumn.
It’s poignant for me because before I moved to Stornoway I lived in Archway (Islington) just on the other side of Hampstead Heath to Keats’ House at South End Green and Autumn was my favourite time for walking on the heath. I even went on an organised fungus foray there one year.
As for his house I was an occassional visitor. There is a small library next door which I sometimes used and I organised a day trip for the older people I worked with to Keats’ House itself. I have to say that they were absolutely lovely, could not have been more helpful, and we were treated to a talk on Keats’ short and tragic life.
Much more frequently I walked down Millfield Lane on the Highgate side of the Heath. This was the site Coleridge’s regular constitutional and the location for the only meeting of these two Romantic poets. Keats reported that Coleridge didn’t stop talking.
“After enquiring by a look whether it would be agreeable, I walked with him at his alderman-afterdinner pace for nearly two miles, I suppose. In those two miles he broached 1,000 things – let me see if I can give you a list – Nightingales-poetry-on poetic sensation-Metaphysics-Different genera and species of Dreams-Nightmare-a dream accompanied by a sense of touch-single and double touch-a dream related-first and second consciousness-The difference between Will and Volition-so my (many) metaphysicians from a want of smoking the second consciousness-monsters-The Kraken-Mermaids-Southey believes in them-Southey’s belief too much diluted-a Ghost story-Good morning- I heard his voice as he came towards me- I heard it as he moved away- I heard it all the interval- if it may be called so.”
Legend has it that Millfield Lane was where Keats heard his nightingale, but I wonder if that derives from this account?
Anyway, nightingales singing belongs to Spring and early Summer and this week’s theme is about the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.
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.