Keats's 'Ode to Autumn' - Bicentenary Celebrations by Ratan Bhattacharjee SignUp
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Keats's 'Ode to Autumn' - Bicentenary Celebrations
by Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee Bookmark and Share

Love you the more in that I believe you love me for my own sake and not for anything else.'- wrote Keats

At least Shelley loved Keats in this selfless way. It was he who came immediately after the premature death of his beloved poet friend in 1921 being a victim of the killer disease tuberculosis though the very following year he himself had been drowned.  And even here too we came to know in his pocket  he kept Keats's poem which contains six odes  Lamia and Hyperbole. This was found when his dead body was recovered from the sea. Those whom God love die young.. Keats and even Shelley who wrote those lines about Keats.

It is really interesting that Keats the poet of the life of sensation knew that his life was numbered. He was bleeding in cough profusely. He was jilted by Fanny Brawne. He was vehemently criticised for obscenity in his poetry  especially after Eve of St Agnes. Still Keats showed a mental serenity from the very beginning of his poetic career. Even in his Ode to a nightingale where he so sensuously gave a graphic picture of wine, and Roses he craved for a life which is  in love with 'easeful death' pointing towards serenity. In fact, this serenity was the focal theme of his sixth ode  'To Autumn'.

'I always somehow associate Chatterton with autumn. He is the purest writer in the English Language." In his own poem, To Autumn', Keats was overtly craving for serenity. In a letter to Reynolds Keats stressed on this non-attachment or  passivity that he witnessed in Nature of stubble plains. He said he loved this autumnal evening.

On Tuesday 21 September 1819 Keats wrote to fellow-poet John Hamilton Reynolds:“How beautiful the season is now—How fine the air—a temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather—Dian skies—I never liked stubble-fields so much as now—Aye better than the chilly green of the Spring. Somehow, a stubble-field 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."

Keats had begun ‘Hyperion’ exactly one year earlier. During those twelve months he wrote practically everything for which he is remembered.

On Sunday 19 September 1819, Keats took his afternoon stroll in Winchester, as he wrote to his friend John Hamilton Reynolds:
“How beautiful the season is now—How fine the air—a temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather—Dian skies—I never liked stubble-fields so much as now—Aye better than the chilly green of the Spring. Somehow, a stubble-field 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. ”

This is what he composed:

“To Autumn

“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 mossed 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-brimmed 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-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-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 barrèd 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.”

On September 18, this poem had its bicentenary year as Keats composed this poem two hundred years ago. It is a rare moment for celebration as all great writers of this world  possess a profound sense of Death. Even Tagore celebrated death in his poems again and again. 'Moron re tuhu momo Shyamo saman'(O Death you are beloved to me like Shyam'.) Shakespeare or Donne wrote again and again on the power of Death and found out ways for overcoming Death.Poetic perpetuation was their solution like the Horatian ' ars longa vita brevis'. But Keats was more realistic in accepting serenely the power of Death on human life. Like Shakespeare's Edgar  Keats too waited to accept ' Ripeness is all'. It was the favourite line of Keats. All his life however short it is, he was a strong minded youth whom death could not defeat. His cool serenity, his passive acceptance of  Death in life is amazing. He knew the Bright star was more steadfast than he himself had ever been. He was ready to face the Autumnal plainness rather than the vernal gorgeousness and wrote sincerely ' Thou  hast thy music. 'Autumnal silence, loneliness or emptiness have an underlying fullness. In the bicentenary celebration of 'Ode to Autumn' we actually celebrate the ephemeral quality of human life.It is Autumn that is so true about Our life. Without Keats who could reveal to us this great truth- probably none. Death is unheard melody of life and even here too Keats told ' Heard melodies are sweet, those unheard are sweeter'.

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28-Sep-2019
More by :  Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee
 
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