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A survey of poetry inspired by the season of autumn quickly shows that Fall is a many-splendored thing. Like a fine wine, Fall is not easily described. And so there are poems celebrating in-gathering, home-coming, and the play of golden light on golden leaves. There are poems whose tone is pensive, melancholic or deeply contented. To some, Fall opens the energies latent under the green of the spring and summer; others insist that Fall's clarity carries with it a lack of imagination.

I think it would be fun to do a little sampling, exploring some of the ways fall has inspired poets (and perhaps some artists). Today, as the smell of freshly made applesauce still lingers in the kitchen, I post a poem by John Keats: "To Autumn."

Keats salutes a season that "loads," "bends," "fills," "swells" and "plumps" until even the bees begin to worry they cannot handle the bounty. Although Fall at times can be mellow (she can be found sitting carelessly on a granary floor, "hair soft-lifted by the winnnowy wind" or drowsed with "the fume of poppies") she can also keep steady with the gleaner or patiently watch the pressing of a cider. And Autumn need not feel inferior to Spring, or the songs the flow from that season. As the light takes on a different quality as day-light wanes, and the bleat of grown lambs shows a certain maturity, so the song Fall hoists has its own tenor and pace, beautiful in its own right and appropriate to this "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness."

As you read, don't miss the rhyming structure, which is slightly different in the second and third stanzas, and adds a pleasing complexity to the poem.

To Autumn
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.



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