ODE: TO AUTUMN

Fieldtrip to Winchester, a town most famous for its prestigious secondary school Winchester College and gargantuan cathedral. One of our tour guides is a Winchester alum, and wore his velvet-lined prefect’s robe as he gave us the tour and a history of the school’s various, and quite colored, rebellions.

The road fronting the college, down which Russell Crowe purportedly chased Hugh Jackman in the filming of Les Misérables, is also the home of 8 College Road, the house Jane Austen lived in for the last three months of her life. Her tomb is inside Winchester Cathedral.

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 The cathedral itself has been characterized as forbidding and hostile from the outside given its perpendicular Gothic style. CS Lewis’ brother, while comparing the outside to the structure of a railway station calls the symmetry and decoration of the interior “perfection.”

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The cathedral also houses the Winchester Bible, a Latin translation of the text penned by a single scribe. While the manuscript is complete, there are places where the chapter-head illustrations—vibrant with emerald, lapis blue, and gold upon completion—are still in the draft stages of tentative pencil.

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But the highlight of the trip was a cross-country meander through a meadow laced by a rivulet of the Thames and studded with blackberries. When he was 24, Keats wandered this same path about a week before us in September, relishing—

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 twined 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 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.

–John Keats, Ode: To Autumn

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