Savouring the sweet sorrow as season of light departs

Country Living with Francis Farragher

“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.”

Some of the most famous lines in English poetry that capture the melancholic beauty of the autumn season and written by a 24-year-old John Keats around 1819, a man who was probably aware at the time of his premature demise from TB – within two years he had shed his mortal coil.

When as students of the old Tuam CBS, after completing the Intermediate Certificate, after we managed to move away from the tyranny of a particularly unwholesome English and Geography teacher, we were lucky enough to switch to a far more erudite – and kinder – classroom master, who nurtured in our senses, an appreciation of language and words.

He was particularly fond of the Romantic Era poets, especially John Keats, and along the way he would tell us the life story of a man who he said composed one of the most beautiful poems ever written in Ode to Autumn.

Whether it be truth or apocryphal, the poem reputedly had quite a funny conception. Keats attended Winchester College, and in his lodgings nearby, the landlady’s young daughter was starting to learn the violin. (Now, with all due respect to children and all music learners, the early days of listening to someone practising on the ’fiddle’, tend not to resonate kindly with the eardrums!).

One pleasant evening in September, Keats had heard enough, and decided to go for a walk in the water meadows close to his home at the back of Winchester College. When he returned to his lodgings, the practice session on the violin was over, and with pen in hand he recounted the joys of September and autumn in one of the most famous 33-lines of poetry ever written.

Pictured: Winchester: The inspiration behind John Keats’ Ode to Autumn.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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