26 October 2015
‘Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too …’
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
– William Shakespeare (Sonnet 73)
The ode To Autumn by John Keats is the most anthologised English poem.
In his poem, Keats recalls the Greek myth of Persephone, Demeter, and Hades, in which Demeter, the goddess of the earth, casts the land into a permanent winter when her daughter, Persephone, is kidnapped by Hades.
Persephone is eventually able to return from the underworld, but only for half the year. In celebration, Demeter brings Spring and Summer to the land. But when her daughter must return to the world of the dead, Demeter brings death to the earth in the form of Autumn and Winter.
In this poem, Keats offers an acceptance of this cycle of life and death. In the final stanza, the speaker addresses a personified Autumn, asking:
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too …
But the speaker then realises that the approach of death brought by Autumn can be just as beautiful as the promise of life found in the Spring.
The late stages of Autumn arrived in Ireland not gently but almost with ferocity this morning.
After a gentle autumn that was almost like an Indian Summer, this morning brought in heavy rain storms and strong gusts that moved quickly across the land.
It was a damp squid for the beginning of the most unusual bank holiday that exists in any European country.
When the October bank holiday on the last Monday in October was announced almost 40 years ago in February 1977 by the then Minister for Labour, Michael O’Leary, it came as a surprise to his cabinet colleagues and to employers.
After O’Leary did his “solo run,” the Minister for Finance, Richie Ryan, tried to have the decision reversed by the cabinet a month later. He accused O’Leary of “making the announcement contrary to the government’s decision” and said it was “entirely unnecessary and inappropriate.”
O’Leary’s surprise announcement also angered the Irish Employers’ Confederation (IEC), which wrote to the Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, complaining there had been no prior consultation.
However, O’Leary held firm and he signed regulations in June to sanction the new public holiday.
His solo run has since meant the last Monday in October has become the traditional day for the running the Dublin Marathon.
Traffic was going to be snarled up throughout the city Dublin as the marathon straggled on for hours, and two us drove around the city on the M50 rather than trying to go through it, and went for a walk in National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin to see the autumn leaves falling.
There was still a hint of that “Indian Summer” in the Rose Garden, with some roses still in bloom. But the Pumpkin Painting competition and displays left us with no doubt that Autumn is about to turn to Winter.
We then decided to experience today’s blustering storm, and continued on further north to Skerries, where we had lunch in Da Vino before going for a walk on the beach and around the Harbour.
The tide was out and the South Strand was deserted, and but for one or two other strollers we had it all to ourselves.
By the time we reached the Harbour, the storm winds were whistling through the riggings at Skerries Sailing Club.
It was time to buy some newspapers, return home and wrap up warmly for the evening.
‘To Autumn’ (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-eaves 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 twinéd 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 barréd 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.
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