I recently ran a question survey via SurveyMonkey and Goodreads to discover people’s ‘most romantics’. For the ‘Most romantic season’ question, the clear favourite was autumn (43%), followed by spring (31%), and then summer (15%) and winter (11%).
Given the current season and the glorious weather that many of us are enjoying, I was surprised to see summer so far down the list. Perhaps we prefer the optimism and freshness of spring to the temperature extremes of summer and winter. But autumn stands as the clear winner. I wonder why?
My theory is that the season appeals so to the senses. When I close my eyes and conjure an image of a romantic moment in autumn, I at once find myself walking through the grounds of my home in Kent. I admire the wonderful colours of the turning leaves – glorious reds and ambers and yellows amid the verdant evergreens. I breathe in the scent of dewy grass and wet earth. I crunch through piles of leaves, and laugh as my dog plays in the piles. I pick apples from branches bowing under the weight of their ripe fruits, and bite into the delicious, sweet flesh.
Of course, autumn has long inspired poets, who more eloquently encapsulate the romantic essence of the season than can I. Today I share with you two poems beating the same title by the Romantic poets William Blake (1783) and John Keats (1820).
To Autumn, by William Blake
O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain’d
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.
“The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.
“The spirits of the air live in the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.
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-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.