Two hundred years ago, halfway around the planet from where I sit, Constable painted someone fishing, or perhaps just messing around, in some little English stream I shall never see. “Tree Trunks” is the name it goes by, and the trunks are all right, as are the shadows and sun on the grassy bank. What touch me most are the browned leaves of autumn and the shimmering gold light created by those increasingly slanting sunbeams.
This is what we have now; we have it every year; amazing. Further, after the last couple of weeks we deserve it more than ever.
To go with that, here is John Keats: Ode 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-eaves 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-brimmed 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,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd 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 barrèd 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.
No more have we thatched roofs, thankfully, and no more standing there winnowing grain for hours by throwing basket after basket after basket – full up into the air so that the chaff can blow away. Nor do we dose our babies with poppy juice, as my ancestors did, and lay them to snooze at the edge of the field while we go out to bend down and reap, hours by hours.
Aside from those things, Keats details all the loveliness still to be enjoyed in autumn. Our season is prolonged this year. How goes it with you all? Have you a favorite painting or poem for autumn?