Friday, August 22, 2008

The Human Seasons - a Poetry Friday post

Here in New Jersey, where I live, it is still summer. But lately, in the evenings or the early mornings, I can catch a whiff of Autumn in the air. Nights have been cooler lately, and the trees have been filling with their various fruits - maple helicopters and seed pods, crabapples and apples, ripening nuts. I got to thinking about the change of seasons, and how my preferences have changed. It used to be that Spring was my favorite, but for the past decade or so, it's been Autumn - I think it's for the "certain slant of light" that comes with the fall (with a nod to Miss Emily Dickinson for use of her term).

One of my favorite poems about Autumn is "To Autumn" by Keats (I am tempted to quote Hugh Grant's character from Bridget Jones's Diary, but I am resisting - only barely), but I shared it last October, so rather than repeating it, I took a look at some more of Keats's poems and decided to share "The Human Seasons", a Shakespearian sonnet which, I believe, hearkens directly to Shakespeare, and in particular to Jaques soliloquy in As You Like It, which I shared two weeks ago. Not that I can prove that Keats was writing his own version of the stages of life because he'd read Shakespeare, but the man definitely knew his plays (as evidenced by his sonnet, "On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again).

The Human Seasons
by John Keats

Four Seasons fill the measure of the year;
  There are four seasons in the mind of man:
He has his lusty Spring, when fancy clear
  Takes in all beauty with an easy span:
He has his Summer, when luxuriously
  Spring's honey'd cud of youthful thought he loves
To ruminate, and by such dreaming high
  Is nearest unto heaven: quiet coves
His soul has in its Autumn, when his wings
  He furleth close; contented so to look
On mists in idleness—to let fair things
  Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook.
He has his Winter too of pale misfeature,
Or else he would forego his mortal nature.


So, as it turns out, it's more about man and less about nature, and yet I find that suits my mood. This time of year always makes me more mindful of the connectedness between the two. Maybe it's because of the harvests coming in, or the way nature draws attention to itself as it prepares to change its clothes. Or maybe it's because the coming of the new school year (which does not arrive here until September) reminds me of the passage of time. Who can say?

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