written by John Keats
- who was inspired by his daily walks in and around Winchester.
- just over a year after writing this poem, (at age 25), John Keats passed away. death had profoundly marked his life (this is subtlety shown throughout the poem).
- a sensuous ode ‘To Autumn’, praising its abundance, harvest, and transition into winter.
- he conveys the message that change is both natural and beautiful, acknowledging that time passes by and usually yields something new and better.
written in 1819
- ‘To Autumn’ serves as the last of Keats’ six famous 1819 odes, as well as his last major composition before his death one year later.
- three eleven-line stanzas
- no definitive rhyme scheme
- consistency is however shared between the stanzas (each begins with an ABAB rhymed quatrain, which is then lost in the following lines, which is then followed by lines 9/10, 20/21, 31/32 forming rhyming couplets).
- cyclical structure - akin to the cyclical nature of time and the seasons
- enjambment (progression)
- iambic pentameter
- progression of each stanza signifies the passing of time - describing both the passing of the season, as well as the progression of an autumnal day.
- the progression of the seasons from late summer to early winter parallels satisfyingly with the progression of a single day (dawn to dusk).
’To Autumn’ is written as an ode. An ode is a short lyrical poem consisting of three stanzas (the strophe, that antistrophe, and the epode).
‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,’
‘Season’ - DIRECT ADDRESS - similar to a way in which a poet would address a lover
‘mellow fruitfulness’ - IMAGERY - lavish and sensuous imagery creates a soft, luscious image encapsulating his adoration for Autumn.
‘mists’ + ‘mellowness’ - ASSONANCE - creates a soft, soothing sound (with the long/stressed vowels) - helps the reader to visualise the scene.
‘Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless’
‘conspiring’ - PERSONIFICATION - true closeness with alliance (between sun and autumn)
‘sun’ - SYMBOL - of warmth, growth, passion
‘load and bless’ - PERSONIFICATION - this alliance seeks to add prosperity and vitality to the natural world - by bestowing fruits upon them (godly qualities)
‘bend’ ‘fill... ripeness’ ‘swell... plump’ ‘more’ ‘o’er-brimm’d’
‘bend’ + ‘fill’ + ‘swell’ etc. - LEXICAL FIELD of images of excess and abundance - alluding to excessive growth and maturity.
‘ripeness to the core’ - signifies perfection in a climatic sense - Autumn represents the climax where the fruits of summer’s labours are reaped
‘Until they think warm days will nevercease,’
‘cease’ - DRAMATIC IRONY - as Keats is aware of his own mortality (A03) - creates a sinister tone and hints at the theme of death
‘Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?’
‘thee’ + ‘thy’ - DIRECT ADDRESS + PRONOUN - emphasises the connection between both entities and how it grows as the poem progresses.
‘thee’ + ‘thy’ - PERSONIFICATION - allows the speaker to describe the season as a visible entity.
‘Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;’
‘sitting careless on a granary floor’ - IMAGERY - the image could signify the relaxing, peaceful quality of the autumnal environment – picturing the season enjoying a well-earned respite after a productive summer.
‘sitting careless on a granary floor’ - IMAGERY - it is argued that the lethargy of the image could be a metaphor for Keats’ ill-health at the time and his impending premature death (A03).
‘hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind’ - PERSONIFICATION- of autumn as a beautiful woman whose hair sways in the ‘winnowing wind’
‘winnowing wind’ - ALLITERATION + ONOMATOPOEIA - appeals through sound (sensory imagery) and also gives rhythm - an attempt to capture the splendour of the season.
‘Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, —’
‘Ay, where are they?’ - RHETORICAL QUESTION - these two rhetorical questions immediately create a doubtful and confused tone in the final stanza- the speaker begs to know where spring has gone, either lamenting its passing previously that year or seeking its arrival in the next - the speaker seems eager for spring and the new life and hope that it signifies.
the second line is the speaker reassuring autumn by claiming he finds peace within the autumnal sounds.
‘While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,’
the poem narrates the passing of an autumn day in parallel with the season itself and this third stanza describes the conclusion of both, as daylight ebbs. Again, this is a potential metaphor for Keats’ death – with the ‘soft-dying day’ acting as a metaphor for his life.
‘Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn’
‘wailful choir’ + ‘mourn’ - EMOTIVE IMAGERY - undoubtedly linked to death - lamenting the death of autumn or perhaps of Keats himself.
‘And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;’
‘lambs’ - SYMBOLIC of new life and hope (similar to spring) - Keats is finding solace in the thought that the natural splendour of spring will reward him for enduring the harshness of winter.
‘And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.’
optimistic tone as the speaker draws pleasure from the beautiful sounds of autumn. this cheerfulness, however, is slightly undermined by the impending inevitability of winter - the final line of the poem signifies that the conclusion of autumn is evident as the swallows gather in the skies preparing to migrate southwards for winter.￼￼