Friday, September 12, 2008

An Ode to Keats's Ode [insight, piece of prose, canada memories]

These days, I think of the Fall that's yet to come, or may be is it already on its way? As I cycle along the Otonabee river, I listen deep within to the fragments of Keatsean verse as they come my way like maple-leaves falling off a tree.

I have been watching the trees and the leaves every-day. I watch as they as they slowly tan themselves to hues of a different gradient: they suck in the orange of the sun, the pink of my sweater, the brown of my skin, the purple of the clouded sky... As I walk along the East-City Bridge, I listen to the cold whispers that amble between my hairs and glide the frigid dance of a passionless heart onto my skin.

Again I think of Keats and his Ode to Autumn. This famous Ode that spoke of the sounds of Autumn and the music of mellow fruitfulness. I have not read this poem for years now, and I did not know I even knew it; I did not know that his lines would someday resonate in my heart like a distant drum that speaks the sounds of hues changing and leaves falling.

Keats's Ode has always been 'read' to me, but for the first time, his Ode is being 'sung' to me. I can hear the conspiracy between the maturing sun and the season of mists as they conspire to bless me with the music of a Fall that is new to me.

It's a new temperament that I am discovering, and for the first time in my life, I felt that a piece of art could come alive, more alive than Keats's own Grecian Urn, and that it could speak and narrate a story where the two lovers kiss. May be we got it all wrong finally: may be Keats 's Odes are not meant to be read, but to be surprised by and lived? May be art together with life, can blend into making one piece of beauty?


For those who, like me, haven't read it in years, here it is:

Ode 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-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees, 5
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; 10
For Summer has o'erbrimm'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; 15
Or on a half-reap'd 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; 20
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 barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day 25
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; 30
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

[From Palgrave, Francis T. The Golden Treasury. London: Macmillan, 1875.] ISBN:1-58734-038-0