Poetry Review: “The Human Seasons” by John Keats

"Broken Winter Branch" (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Broken Winter Branch” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

Cold winter has come to the North Country. Meteorologists tell us the first true snowstorm of December is coming. The first cold temperatures have already arrived.

In matters of metaphor, Art turns toward Nature for illumination. The laws and rhythms of creation are a teacher worth paying attention to – growth toward death, death toward new life.

Here is a poem by Keats that has been on my mind of late.

Enjoy!

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 honied 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.

 

Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

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

 

I suspect that the lines one finds most compelling in this small poem may depend upon what season the reader finds herself/himself currently in. And since I am in the autumn years, these lines stand out.

Keats, of course, died in the late spring of his life. Dying in his mid 20s as he did, he did not have the usual span of time. He did not have “his Summer… [to] Ruminate.”

And yet he did in words so beautiful that they continue blessing all of us who have come after him.

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