The Emperor's New Clothes (14/10/12)

Misty, mellow, fruitful... the poet Keats may see only beauty in autumn, but David Randall dreads the gloom

Share
Related Topics

Not a bad man, John Keats, but he was liable to get hold of the wrong end of the stick. Take autumn. Of all the seasons he could have chosen to eulogise, what possessed him to choose this one? Mists and mellow fruitfulness? Moss'd cottage-trees bending with apples? Stubble plains touch'd with rosy hue? Fag end of the year, more like, and much the same colour as one. You know, one of those orangey-browny ones that's been floating in an October puddle for a day.

It is to Mr Keats, one suspects, that we owe the present fetishising of autumn, the drooling over golden leaves and reddening trees, the slavering over crisp mornings and dew-soaked cobwebs, the gushing over a few apples and mushrooms, the whole bloody tourist-board brochure cliché. Let us, then, lay the maple-syrup'd sentiment to one side and see this time of year for what it is.

Autumn is a dank, dreary season of decay. The reds and yellows of dying leaves are not a blooming, but the expiring pigments that remain when life has left them and their trees have shut down for the winter. These are the weeks when light leaks from either end of the day like water from a ruptured barrel; when fungi sprout in woods like mildew on a damp slum wall; when the sun shines but doesn't warm; and when people walk the streets clothed not in the bright variety of spring and summer, but in the drab uniformity of buttoned-up browns and blacks.

It's the penitential part of the year's life-cycle; three months of purgatory-like probation before we can enjoy Christmas and know that soon, in January, the days will start slowly to lengthen, and Spring – that most gloriously surging of seasons – will soon begin.

So we have to go through it, this lowering Octoberish, Novemberish time, but that's no reason to celebrate and praise it. No cause to write it a poem, use the past tense, and put apostrophes where the penultimate letters in words like "brimmed" should be. All very well being a poet, but there's no need to go all Romantic about it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

Front-End Developer (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C#, GUI)

£55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...

Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Would you fork out to spend time on Sting's Tuscan estate?  

Happy to pay for the privilege of picking olives? Then Sting might have a job for you...

John Walsh
Clockwise from top: Zafran Ramzan, Razwan Razaq (main picture), Adil Hussain, Umar Razaq and Mohsin Khan were sentenced for grooming teenage girls for sex in 2010.  

Nothing can make up for the trauma of Rotherham's abused young girls, but many more heads must roll

Jane Merrick
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?