The other day I was reading the blog of a fellow citizen of Penn’s Woods, Walt Franklin of Rivertop Rambles. I’m not a fly fisherman, but watching those guys on slate run years ago, taking a break from hiking the Black Forest trail, well, there was something Zen or maybe Taoist about it, how they seemed not intruders, but participants in the environment of the stream. No wonder everyone loves the Movie “A River Runs Through It.” The scenery alone is enough to bring peace into a man’s heart. And how can you not admire a man with a good name like Walt, right?
Another thing Walt of the Rambling Rivertop and I have in common is a love of birds. He describes so reverently the habits and wild beauty of a green heron, a bird that other fisherman might see as competition. He instead sees the heron as another part of the scene he himself is part of, an integral part. In this particular post Walt brought up one of the things I always love about September and early October, that morning mist that rises off the streams, and hugs the hills of the valleys before it burns off, sometimes as late as nine or ten am. I have often driven through it to a ridge top in hopeful anticipation of a good Broad Wing flight in mid September, or watched it from above as it revealed a green/gold valley below.
It was Keats’ line he used about the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” It’s from the poem “To Autumn.” And as a treat for you–just indulge me, please–I dug out a reading I did of this on YouTube from October two years ago, complete with the cheesy intro, and my hair sticking up above one ear under my crooked reading glasses. It was recorded on a simple laptop web cam, and for all it’s flaws, and I realize they are many, the reading itself I think went very well. There is a rather nice audio reading of it on the Poetry Foundation website, and I have found a lot more polished presentations of this piece online, but this one Keatsbabe, Suzie Grogan herself endorsed, so it can’t be all bad. As William Stafford once said to live in the realm of poetry, “one must be willingly fallible.”
To Autumn by 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-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'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-reap'd furrow sound asleep, Drowsed 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 redbreast whistles from a garden-croft; And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.