Last Sunday, we were celebrating autumn and one of our regular visitors to the chapel brought with her John Keats’ poem To Autumn to read.
The well known line “Seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness” reminded me of how amazing it was that in his very short life Keats was able to write such a beautiful poem.
He wrote To Autumn in 1820. Two years before, in 1818, he’d been nursing his brother Tom who was dying from the family disease of tuberculosis; that same year he fell genuinely in love but discovered that nothing was going to come of it, and by 1820 he knew he too had the family disease.
He died in Rome in February 1821 at the age of 25 years and four months.
There is something to be learnt from his example.
There is so much of swelling beauty about this time of autumn and harvest; so much richness, so much warmth of colour, that even though we may not be poets, we might profitably spend time dwelling with it rather than being drawn into the commercial pressure of looking ahead to December.
This is the time for quietness and reflection.
It is truly a mellow time and also a melancholy one, as we know nature’s vibrancy will fade.
Spring and summer are busy times, we go places whilst there is more light, we make plans, we travel, we clean and paint, we take on new challenges, new skills but then autumn sets a different tone.
It requires us to slow down and live in the present, absorb the colour and a different quality of air; pause, feel and see the change as trees lose their leaves whilst branches are laden with berries– yellow, black and red. The light has lost the brightness of spring but gained that misty golden haze of autumn.
Taking advantage of this season means allowing time for its richness to seep into us – body and soul – and let its bursting colours give us joy. Maybe this way we find some balance, some poise before the days darken.
Two days after Keats composed To Autumn he wrote to a friend saying: “How beautiful the season is now...how fine the air...I never like stubble fields so much as now” – Aye, better than the chilly green of the spring.