Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Of the four, autumn is perhaps the most capricious season.

Weathers of all kinds arrive in fits and starts, now temperate, now tempestuous. A mild afternoon breeze might snap into a crisp evening chill, a sunlit morning into a stormy night.

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This fickle weatherscape whips up paradoxical responses from us human beings: we watch with a certain melancholy as rusty leaves and ripened fruit fall from their branches (the Northern Americans don’t call it ‘fall’ for nothing); as the fertile energy of the summer wilts into wintry stillness; as greens turn to browns, blues to greys.

There’s a temptation to turn inwards – both physically and mentally – at the time of year that was once (unflatteringly) called “backend” in Northern England.

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But autumn is also the season of abundance, of the fruits of labour being gathered in harvest. A time that John Keats (more flatteringly) dubbed “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”.

In a letter to his friend (likewise named John – this time a Hamilton Reynolds), Keats waxed lyrical on the aesthetic impressions that an autumn walk had made upon him, so much so that he decided to write a rather nice piece of poetry about it. In his letter he writes:

“How beautiful the season is now – How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it […] I never lik’d stubble fields so much as now […] Somehow a stubble plain looks warm – in the same way that some pictures look warm – this struck me so much in my sunday’s walk that I composed upon it.”

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The peculiar pleasures and paradoxes of the season have also been mulled over by the great French writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (better known as Colette), who considers autumn a beginning, rather than a decline.

The way it stealthily “steals unseen through the impassive summer” is a gesture of its superiority over the other seasons, not of its wishy-washy, fence-sitting dithering between summer and winter.

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So it would seem that autumn isn’t the backend of the year after all.

And, let’s be honest, there’s nothing better than frisking your way through a great heap of crackling leaves now, is there?

 


Further reading:

“A Beginning, Not a Decline: Colette on the Splendor of Autumn and the Autumn of Life”, by Maria Popova

Wearing:

Watch, Kapten and Son

Photographs:

Daniel Walcher

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17 thoughts on “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

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