03 March 2010

To Autumn

I had an English teacher in senior high school called Mrs Anderson. She was short with steel-grey hair, glasses, and a ferocious attitude with a capital A.T.T.I.T.U.D.E. Yes, she got called Angry behind her back. Yes, she was loved and feared in equal measure. She also had a real passion for reading aloud,* which was a bit different to the usual mixture of enthusiasm, sarcasm and droll humour from the rest of the English/History staff. I will never forget her reading of Keats' poems. One of our friends still knows most of this off by heart (smartypants) and will recite en mode if pressed. Firm, ripe and fruity.

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-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 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 red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

* Believe me when I say that reading Equus with her was traumatic for more than one in our class.