#FlashFictionFriday: Ode to Autumn, by John Keats

Autumn_Landscape_With_Pond_And_Castle_Tower-Alfred_Glendening-1869Autumn officially begins on Sept. 21, 2016. In honor of the changing season, and because it is Flash Fiction Friday, I bring you a classical poem, written by one of the mainstays of the Romantic movement in the arts and literature, John Keats. When Keats died of tuberculosis at the age of 25, he had been writing poetry seriously for only about six years, and publishing for only four.

In his lifetime, sales of Keats’s three volumes of poetry amounted to around 200 copies. Yet this Indie author is one of the most celebrated and studied poets of the last three hundred years.

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Ode To Autumn – Poem 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’er-brimmed their clammy cell.

 

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.

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He writes, “Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?” and I know what he feels. I look forward to the changing of the seasons, the the colors of fall, the red of sumac and vine-maple, but  I confess, I will miss the summer. Sometimes, the cold dark, rain of the Northwest winter lacks appeal. I treasure the occasional patch of blue sky and the glimpse of sun.

When I read Keats, I am awed by the bold confessional tone of his prose. He is filled with emotion and passion—and expresses it with no filters. Consider the last five lines of the sonnet Bright Star:

Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,

To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,

Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,

And so live ever–or else swoon to death.

This is a bold confession of both sexual desire and romantic love—topics that, in polite society, were discussed behind closed doors. The poet was unafraid to say what most young men of his time felt, and he said it so beautifully it connects and resonates with modern readers.

Quote from Wikipedia (the fount of all knowledge):John Keats (Oct. 31, 795-Feb 23, 1821) was an English Romantic poet. He was one of the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets, along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, despite his work having been in publication for only four years before his death.[1]

Although his poems were not generally well received by critics during his lifetime, his reputation grew after his death, and by the end of the 19th century, he had become one of the most beloved of all English poets. He had a significant influence on a diverse range of poets and writers. Jorge Luis Borges stated that his first encounter with Keats’s work was the most significant literary experience of his life.[2]

The poetry of Keats is characterized by sensual imagery, most notably in the series of odes. This is typical of romantic poets, as they aimed to accentuate extreme emotion through the emphasis of natural imagery. Today his poems and letters are some of the most popular and most analyzed in English literature.


Ode to Autumn, John Keats PD|100

Bright Star, John Keats PD|100

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