Monday, October 12, 2009

Bang the dish....

I just finished The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey, and one of her main characters was writing his dissertation on John Keats' poetry, a project that he gave up on after seven years worth of work. For some reason, I thought of "To Autumn," one of Keats' most beautiful odes.

Wait. I can't say that. I love all of his odes -- all are beautiful.


I reread the poem a few minutes ago and realized that the autumn Keats wrote about is not the autumn that we are having today -- the autumn we are having today is rain. I feel like I live in Bangladesh. Is it still called Bangladesh? Makes me think of that George Harrison song that we always thought sounded like he was singing, "bang the dish."

Never mind -- back to Keats.

Keats wrote in the first stanza:

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.

Is there anything there that is slightly like today? No, this autumn is beautiful -- warm, maternal, capable of plenty -- a celebration of life right before winter. If I ponder on this much, I may turn this in to a commentary on mortality.

Eh. I can see all of my former students rolling their eyes as I launch into poetry interpretation, Gillham style.

"To Autumn" is one of Keats' simplest poems -- and I read once, a long time ago, that it was the most frequently published poem in the English language. That was before the Internet. Now I think the most highly published words in the English language are Miley Cyrus's Twitter.


I hate that I know that she has Twitter.

That's all I got.


  1. I can't believe "To Autumn" was ever the most frequently published poem in the English language. Are you sure about this? This blog made me uncomfortable. First you mentioned "dissertation," a word that makes me shudder. Then you selected a poem with apples the Monday after the Ellijay Apple Festival, a time when I am confined to my home. Finally, you say this is a warm day, and I'm freezing and thinking about turning on the heat. Can't you talk about that train in the sun again?

  2. I wish I had paid better attention during Lit class. It was a really long time ago, but I wish it had made a bigger impact on me. Do you think his autumn was really that wonderful or did he romanticize it? Maybe urban sprawl has taken that autumn away from us. We are too far removed from the simpler family harvests. I'll bet you are/were an incredible teacher. Thanks for sharing.

  3. This is autumn? We have another 45 days of hurricane season and its freakin' 95 degrees. If the rain gets you down, head south. We'll leave the light on.

  4. Sigh...I love that ode.

    My favorite part:
    To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
    And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core.

    For some reason, it makes me think of John Jake's North and South. Obviously not in writing styles but imagery. The lush, Southern countryside. Leaves turning color. Children climbing one of those apple trees, the fruit a rich crimson, enticing the children to reach up and try to pick them from their low branches, to bite into them, giggling, while their mother looks on from her rocking chair on the front porch of that cottage, all the while a cool, Autumn breeze blows past them, rustling the orange and yellow leaves all around them...

    Sigh...I went for a walk with Jillian yesterday and got all excited. Why, you ask? Cuz she found a lone fallen leaf on the ground. It was orange. And the only one within a 30 mile radius, I'm sure.

    Thank you Keats, thank you Gillham, for giving me and other Californians "To Autumn".