Five odes to autumnal locales

Since today is National Poetry Day we thought it would be nice to compile a selection of beautiful odes by some of our favourite poets to their most beloved locales.

Our choices include Spanish poet Antonio Machado’s paean to Soria, the serene north-central town where he met his wife, and Keats’ To Autumn, which was inspired by a seasonal walk through the Hampshire town of Winchester in the early 19th century.

Photo by Ingo Rickmann via Wikipedia.

TO AUTUMN

By John Keats (1795-1821)

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.

Photo by Justin Johnsen via Flickr.

A PROMISE TO CALIFORNIA

By Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

A promise to California,
Also to the great Pastoral Plains, and for Oregon:
Sojourning east a while longer, soon I travel toward you, to remain,
to teach robust American love;
For I know very well that I and robust love belong among you, inland,
and along the Western Sea;
For These States tend inland, and toward the Western Sea–and I will
also.

Photo by Pallares1 via Wikipedia.

FIELDS OF SORIA

By Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

Hills of silver plate,
grey heights, dark red rocks
through which the Duero bends
its crossbow arc
round Soria, shadowed oaks,
stone dry-lands, naked mountains,
white roads and river poplars,
twilights of Soria, warlike and mystical,
today I feel, for you,
in my hearts depths, sadness,
sadness of love! Fields of Soria,
where it seems the stones have dreams,
you go with me! Hills of silver plate,
grey heights, dark red rocks.

Photo by Pixie via Wikipedia.

LOVERS OF ARAN

By Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

The timeless waves, bright, sifting, broken glass,
Came dazzling around, into the rocks,
Came glinting, sifting from the Americas

To posess Aran. Or did Aran rush
to throw wide arms of rock around a tide
That yielded with an ebb, with a soft crash?

Did sea define the land or land the sea?
Each drew new meaning from the waves’ collision.
Sea broke on land to full identity.

Photo by Michael Reeve via Wikipedia.

PARIS

By Alan Seeger (1888-1916)

First, London, for its myriads; for its height,
Manhattan heaped in towering stalagmite;
But Paris for the smoothness of the paths
That lead the heart unto the heart’s delight….
Fair loiterer on the threshold of those days
When there’s no lovelier prize the world displays
Than, having beauty and your twenty years,
You have the means to conquer and the ways,
And coming where the crossroads separate
And down each vista glories and wonders wait,
Crowning each path with pinnacles so fair
You know not which to choose, and hesitate—
Oh, go to Paris…. In the midday gloom
Of some old quarter take a little room
That looks off over Paris and its towers
From Saint Gervais round to the Emperor’s Tomb,—
So high that you can hear a mating dove
Croon down the chimney from the roof above,
See Nôtre Dame and know how sweet it is
To wake between Our Lady and our love.

As these poems show, going out exploring and experiencing new places can be one of life’s most fulfilling pleasures. It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes it takes the sentiments of someone who has actually been there to evoke the feeling of time and place combined.