Monday, 11 October 2010

Thou hast thy music too

The Thames at Iffley Lock

Yesterday I walked along the Thames towards Iffley Lock. The golden autumn light lit the trees and church tower and rowers gently slid past as I trundled along. I felt a world away from my life of a few months ago and then I suddenly realised that I live as close to the Thames now as I did in London. So, I haven't moved away I have merely moved upriver!

Autumn always feels like a good time of year for being busy. Winter is still curled up, waiting to unfurl and swathe its darkness over the land. So, there is time to quickly busy ourselves and get things done before the long months of waiting for spring. As I write this, I can see a squirrel dashing about in our garden, no doubt planning where to hide his food before hibernation starts. In the last of the sun people come out and bask as they stroll along - the river yesterday was a hive of activity as families were making the most of the weakening rays. I stopped for a drink in the Isis Farmhouse and sat in their orchard watching the people around me. Families chattered, students were alight with finding out all the summer activities of their peers and apples plopped from the over-laden boughs. Autumn is full of smells and sounds - it has its music too.

The day brought the following poem by Keats into my mind. I love autumn and I also love Keats so the two combined is a perfect marriage.

To Autumn

John Keats (1820)

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.


  1. Dear BB, Keats is as you say, synonymous with Autumn through his remarkable poetry. This is a most wonderful time of year and the weather at present continues to be kind. Perfect for lazy days when one can people watch and revel in the simple pleasures of life.

  2. My friend, Ilana, just shared this Rilke poem on the same theme - it's glorious: xxx

    AUTUMN DAY / Rainer Maria Rilke

    Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
    Lay your shadow on the sundials
    and let loose the wind in the fields.

    Bid the last fruits to be full;
    give them another two more southerly days,
    press them to ripeness, and chase
    the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

    Whoever has no house now will not build one
    Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long
    will stay up, read, write long letters,
    and wander the avenues, up and down,
    restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.

  3. What a perfect-sounding day...I almost feel as if I was there! The poem is one of my favourites- glorious language about the most glorious of seasons. I hadn't read the Rilke piece posted above before- also beautiful (although a little depressing!!).

  4. Lovely post as I read this at work I'd like to be meandering along the Thames instead. I love that poem it just so springs to mind on glorious autumnal days...

  5. I love "To Autumn" by John Keats. It automatically just pops into my head whenever I see the first leaf tremble and then fall. You walk makes me want to read Shakespeare terribly.

  6. Well, I managed a few lines before welling up. Such a remarkable poet.

    We keep a bag of peanuts in the pantry for the squirrels who come to call. They keep Deacon entertained so I encourage it!

  7. What a lovely post! I adore Autumn too and always love reading that poem this time of year.

  8. Love this post. I can imagine myself there, walking by the river enjoying the smells and colours. I always think of 'To Autumn' on these mellow misty days - just perfect.


  9. Lovely post! I discovered your blog through the passementerie blog and I am so pleased that I did - there are too few blogs about Oxford given how many literary types live here. I am here doing my DPhil after three years in New York City. Originally from New Zealand.
    I think we lived the same day on Sunday - my husband and baby walked down the Thames to the Isis pub (we were the ones with the toddler in a red coat making quite a racket). Our place is directly on the river by Folly Bridge - a glorious walk down. I look forward to following your adventures here. Maybe I will go set up my own blog now...