We took a beautiful walk in the Wilbrink forest today. It’s that wonderful time when you can feel the transition from summer to autumn in nature: the air is still warm and carries the earthy smell of the sunlight on the ground, but there is also the occasional whiff of a stink-horn and the strong scent of humus, moist with evaporating morning dew. Toadstools and fungi are sprouting everywhere, spiders spin silver between the trees, and the snaps and pops of falling acorns and chestnuts mingle with bird songs. Leaves are turning red, brown, orange, yellow; they stand out almost shyly among their brilliant green family members. We pick ripe blackberries and fresh porcini. Soon it will get colder, soon the trees will shed their colourful canopies and the drab, grey weather will set in. But not just yet. Autumn is only just peeping out of its cocoon.
The wealth of colours, smells, and sounds that make up the magical atmosphere of autumn are, as always, perfectly captured by John Keats. I studied this poem during my first year at university, and it is still one of my favourite poems. I’m especially fond of the line: “Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they? / Think not of them, thou hast thy music too.”
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.