O Autumn, laden with fruit

When the nights creep  in earlier and earlier and we draw the curtains and turn on or light the fires, that’s when reading poems is most satisfying – especially if it’s cold and nipsome outside. Autumn is slipping away and winter is approaching, but the trees are still stunning especially when the sun catches bronze and golden leaves and crimson fruit and berries… And this is what we think of snuggled in at home with the dark and the cold outside, we think of the lovely days we’ve had with the splendid turn of season colours.

Here’s a poem by William Blake:

To Autumn

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou mayst rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

“The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

“The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

William Blake1757 – 1827

The month of carnival

The air has changed… it’s not just that tonight was cold, a clear sky and a frostiness about, something in the quality has changed – autumn to winter.  We were walking out at about 9:30 and it was almost a scent, almost the feel of the night on our cheeks and noses… the air has changed.

After tonight there will only be one more day of October, so here is something from Helen Hunt Jackson who was born this month one hundred and eighty-seven years ago:

A Calendar Of Sonnets: October 

The month of carnival of all the year,
When Nature lets the wild earth go its way,
And spend whole seasons on a single day.
The spring-time holds her white and purple dear;
October, lavish, flaunts them far and near;
The summer charily her reds doth lay
Like jewels on her costliest array;
October, scornful, burns them on a bier.
The winter hoards his pearls of frost in sign
Of kingdom: whiter pearls than winter knew,
Oar empress wore, in Egypt’s ancient line,
October, feasting ‘neath her dome of blue,
Drinks at a single draught, slow filtered through
Sunshiny air, as in a tingling wine!

Helen Hunt Jackson: 1830-1885

Some pleasing objects for his praise delay

October has arrived and I feel that as well as turning over a new page on the calendar (I never even look until the first of the month so I have a little surprise!) I can also look again at John Clare’s Shepherd’s Calendar. Even though this was written nearly two hundred years ago many of the scenes he describes can still be seen today – especially in a rural area like our county of Somerset. Autumn is covering the right colours of summer, changing them to rich browns and golds, fields are full of stubble – with or without horses, and there are plenty of farm animals still in fields nearby – although no shepherd boys any more!

October

Nature now spreads around in dreary hue
A pall to cover all that summer knew
Yet in the poets solitary way
Some pleasing objects for his praise delay
Somthing that makes him pause and turn again
As every trifle will his eye detain
The free horse rustling through the stubble land
And bawling herd boy with his motly band
Of hogs and sheep and cows who feed their fill
Oer cleard fields rambling where so ere they will
The geese flock gabbling in the splashy fields
And quaking ducks in pondweeds half conseald
Or seeking worms along the homclose sward
Right glad of freedom from the prison yard
While every cart rut dribbles its low tide
And every hollow splashing sports provide
The hedger stopping gaps wi pointed bough
Made by intruding horse and blundering cow
The milk maid tripping on her morning way
And fodderers oft tho early cutting hay
Dropping the littering forkfulls from his back
Side where the thorn fence circles round the stack
The cotter journying wi his noisey swine
Along the wood side where the brambles twine
Shaking from dinted cups the acorns brown.

John Clare  1793 – 1864

The fitful gust that shakes the casement

A perfect poem for November, by John Clare:

I love the fitful gust that shakes
The casement all the day,
And from the glossy elm tree takes
The faded leaves away,
Twirling them by the window pane
With thousand others down the lane.
I love to see the shaking twig
Dance till shut of eve,
The sparrow on the cottage rig,
Whose chirp would make believe
That Spring was just now flirting by
In Summer’s lap with flowers to lie.
I love to see the cottage smoke
Curl upwards through the trees;
The pigeons nestled round the cote
On November days like these;
The cock upon the dunghill crowing,
The mill sails on the heath a-going.

A closer acquaintance with various cuts of beef…

I mentioned yesterday that the air has changed and autumn is really here – it was not that cold as we wandered around the Underfall Yard, along Baltic Wharf and Wapping Wharf, but the season has now definitely moved from late summer to early autumn.

The National Mark Calendar for Cooking has a lovely introduction to the month, ‘October drives still further into winter and breakfasts become a matter of consequence.’  The little 1930’s recipe book suggests ‘various cuts of beef‘ and has a recipe for a new hot pot. It also has chicken pilaff, curried vegetables and chaudfroid of pears in case anyone was thinking cooking at that time, pre-war and pre-Elizabeth David British food was dull and uninteresting!

Here is the recipe using ‘various cuts of beef‘:

A new Hot pot

  • 1 lb beef ribs or stewing steak, cut in pieces
  • 2 sausages cut into four pieces
  • optional pig’s ear (“in the original recipe the inclusion of a pig’s ear is recommended; but as it cannot be readily obtained it may be omitted, as the Hot Pot is excellent without it”)
  • 2 carrots, sliced into four or six pieces
  • 1 turnip, sliced into four or six pieces
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 or 2 leeks, sliced
  • 1 lb potatoes cut into halves or quarters
  • dripping
  • stock
  • salt and pepper
  1. fry beef in dripping until golden brown
  2. add vegetables except potatoes, a very little stock and seasoning – and optional pig’s ear
  3. simmer slowly for 1 hour then add sausage pieces (rolled in flour) and potatoes
  4. simmer slowly for another hour until the potatoes are cooked

Autumn comes to the Baltic Wharf

We went back to our favourite place again, the Underfall yard; we went with friends, parked up and wandered around, then strolled along Baltic Wharf towards Wapping Wharf.

As usual with me, I got to wondering about the word ‘wapping’ as there is also a Wapping in London. I can’t find what it means, but the London Wapping’s name was first recorded c.1220 and it may have come from something meaning ‘the settlement of Wæppa’s people’… Ii guess ther might have been another chief in this area also called Wæppa, or maybe it was just named after it’s London counterpart.

It was a pleasant day, but grey and slightly chilly; we remarked that it wasn’t just the slight breeze, nor the lowering skies, the quality of the air had changed… It’s definitely autumn now!

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