We’ve been reading a lot of Keats’ poetry in my Transatlantic Literary History class, which has turned my mind to freshman year of college. That is when I read “To Autumn” in my Introduction to English Literature course, the first Keats poem I’d ever studied. My professor had a strong love for Keats, particularly this poem, and he told us that as we grew older, we would understand it a little better every year.
We were young. Eighteen, nineteen years old. Fresh out of AP English Literature and creative writing courses. Not many of us could identify so much with the poem at the time, and I certainly didn’t. Fall was dreary and wet, and it seemed to promise the beginnings of a winter that would make the trees and all other natural beauty die. I’ve always hated feeling cold, and so when I read “To Autumn” with the class, I just didn’t connect with it.
Maybe I still don’t understand a lot about what Keats was trying to say. How much can change about a person in two years, after all? I still dislike it when cold sets in my bones, and I can’t help but miss summertime when walking home on chill, dark evenings. Although I’m only twenty years old, I’ve felt that seasons goes by faster this year. Every fall reminds me that another year is close to ending and that, though I am trying to make every day last, they’re still limited and slowly slipping from my grasp.
But I’m starting to enjoy in these autumn days: the leaves changing colors and falling from the trees, the smell of apples and spice, the foggy mornings while walking to campus. And sometimes, I think I’m starting to understand what Keats said when he wrote, “Think not of [spring,] thou hast thy music, too…”
It’s a subtle, quiet beauty. Melancholy, maybe, but beautiful nonetheless. I don’t know what’s changed, why I’m not minding autumn quite so much this year. Perhaps I’m getting older and am starting to understand what my professor meant, how life can change and in some ways dim as you grow older but still contain sheer wonder. Or perhaps it’s nothing. But I feel like I’m seeing this autumn differently, and it is both lovely and strange.