Autumn Itchen

The Gilded Season

By Deanna Scutt

It’s November, and that means autumn. The “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” as Keats wrote. I have never been able to escape his ‘Ode to Autumn’, and the fact that this poem was written when Keats was staying in Winchester seems to be the favourite conversation starter of every literary person in my historic hometown, and indeed most of the literary persons I meet in the outside world.

The conversation:

“So where are you from?”

“Winchester.”

“Ah! Did you know that Keats–?”

“Yes…”

Brought up in lectures, at parties, and even the odd date, I have been reminded of this poem’s local significance more times than I care to recall. Understandably, any fondness I once held for the poem has long since worn off.

But there are some things that deserve to have poems written about, and personal taste notwithstanding, I like to think that I see what Keats was getting at.

I have walked the Itchen Navigation between Winchester and Southampton many times, in all the four seasons, but there is nothing quite like the river in the autumn.

Murmuring quietly beneath the folds of early morning mist, the water emerges into the winter sun, threaded gold and green.

My favourite stretch lies between Eastleigh and Winchester. Peopled as it is by dog walkers and old couples in walking boots who never fail to bid you “good morning”, there is something secretive about the way the reeds stand on the banks, whispering together.

I have always felt, coming here, that I might see ghosts. Not the sunken-eyed terrors of the cinema, but older spirits wearing berry crowns and running barefoot between the trees.

Here, more than anywhere, I find the urge to write, and not for the sake of having a voice and wanting it to be heard, or deeper moral callings, but for my own self, because I want to take something of these moments and keep them.

As the day wears on, the light brightens. Sometimes I go to Eastleigh and back, sometimes with my hometown friend, and sometimes by myself.

Where I find myself alone, I like to watch the mist twisting into vague silhouettes, and listen to the insects skimming across the water.

This is not a place for lighters. To me, it has always seemed part of an older world.

5

 Editor: Joel Emmons

 

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