Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Re-discovering literature

I cant say that I was ever the worlds greatest fan of poetry. I found English Lit tedious when I was at school. Probably because the teacher was the most boring old fart in the world. He was just counting the days until he retired and used to plonk books in front of us, tell us to read whichever bit of Shakespeare he had picked out, and spent the entire lesson with his feet up on his desk smoking his pipe and giving us no feedback whatsoever. He sometimes even fell asleep - and we would then do what any responsible and well brought up young people would do............ start having spit ball fights and writing graffiti all over each others work books.

What a waste of 3 years of my life.

And then in my early 20's, I discovered a love of English poets that I never knew was lurking alongside the love I had (at the time) for dance music, partying, tequila and cigarettes. And although the only one of those young loves I still have is for music (it now extends beyond dance music you'll be glad to hear), my passion for poetry has just grown and grown.

I sat here musing about my favourites. What is the one poem that makes me sigh every time I read it? And I have to admit, after a long time thinking about it, I will step out onto the ledge and say it is "To Autumn" by John Keats.

For anyone who has never had the pleasure of sitting in a field in the English countryside, as summer slowly turns to Autumn, watching the farmers bailing the straw. If you have never spent time staring at the golden stalks they leave behind in the stubble fields, and havent watched the swallows diving and swooping before lining up on the telephone wires waiting to leave for the winter, the following is for you.

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'erbrimmed 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-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twin├Ęd 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.


  1. I hate to hear of young people being let down by poor teaching. You were always so passionate about literature when you were small, I'm glad that came to the fore again after you left school.
    I imagine that autumn in your part of England will be stunning.

  2. He draws a beautiful picture in the mind

  3. Monix - Well maybe you and Uncle N should try and book yourselves a wee walking holiday at the start of Autumn and come up here. I have a spare room with your name on it that hasnt even been used yet. And you can even borrow the dogs to keep you company :-)

    Val - I totally agree. Thats what makes me sigh every time I read it :-)

  4. The words are so beautiful, you can almost smell them. Have you seen Jane Campion's 'Bright Star'? It's the love story of Keats and Fanny Brawne. You might like it.

  5. I haven't Jodi, but thank you for telling me about it - Im going to have a look on Amazon and see if I can find a copy :-)


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