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To Autumn Notes

Literary Techniques
Personification, apostrophe, and imagery are the main techniques used to employ
meaning in "To Autumn." Namely, Keats uses personification in order to give
Autumn human qualities in almost every single image. The most famous one from
the poem, of course, is in calling Autumn the "close bosom-friend of the maturing
sun." Autumn is also shown to be "conspiring" with the sun in order to produce a
fruitful harvest. Therefore, the sun is also personified indirectly (in that it is a
"friend" and a "conspirer" as well). Autumn is also described as "sitting careless"
and having "hair soft-lifted" in drowsing.
Keats also uses apostrophe in his poem to help employ meaning to the
reader. Apostrophe is the device used when a poet invokes something that is not
human (an animal, an idea, even a dead person) or someone who is not there with
direct address.
The prevailing mood of "To Autumn" is peace and contentment.
I cannot read one of Keats's poems without thinking about how short his life was
and how his poetry reflects his thoughts on life and death. He died of tuberculosis at
the age of 26 in 1821. He wrote "To Autumn" only two years earlier. In a sense,
Keats was in the autumn of his own life. By showing peace and contentment in the
closing of the year, Keats was in essence saying that he had come to terms and
was at peace with the fact of his illness and imminent death.
The prevailing mood in 'To Autumn' is that of the union between joy and melancholy.
In my opinion, this poem outlines the theme that joy can only be appreciated in
juxtaposition with sadness. Life can only be lived to its fullest extent if death is
present at its very conception. The beauty and joy experienced in 'To Autumn' are
heightened by the passage of time and the coming of winter. The beauty and joy of
the dying day are reflected in and complemented by images evoking sadness: the
sun setting on the stubble fields and the wail of the gnats. Contentment which
directly evokes sadness and implies acceptance of the process toward death beyond
grief, is mirrored in Keats' poem.
Of course, no one could talk about "To Autumn" without mentioning the rich
imagery here! All five senses are evoked! In regards to sound images (which are
mostly represented in the last stanza), we have the buzzing "bees" and
the "winnowing wind" and the "music" of Autumn as well as the "choirs of gnats,"
the "lambs loud bleat," the songs of "Hedge-crickets," and the "red-breast
whistles." There are plenty of touch images as well such as the "mists," the
"clammy cells" of the bees, Autumn's "soft-lifted" hair, and the "oozings" of the ripe
fruit. Touch, of course, can bleed into taste imagery as the "oozings" of ripe fruit
also appeals to taste as does the "fruit with ripeness to the core," the "sweet

nature is a paradise. The music brings autumn to a fitting close. is time when nature dies. as most would have it.kernel. and touch." In regards to sight images. and the sweet-smelling flowers attracting bees all work together to tempt the reader into believing that summer will never end. The first stanza especially evokes the senses of smell and touch. Romantics. evoking the perceptions of sight. idly.” checking. as you know. reflecting the natural language of man. cutting. The sudden chorus of sounds breaks the heavy silence of the second stanza. However here are two of my favourite collections from the poem: To Autumn” is rich in imagery. the fruit. the perfect harmony of man. The reader and autumn are reminded that the songs of spring have been replaced by a different but no less beautiful music. the divine. It is a Utopia. The language of the ode is simple. But Keats sees it as a time of unmatched beauty. Each stanza highlights one of the senses. and winter has come with a natural sweetness as the day dies softly to the mournful sound of the gnats. esteem nature. Keats adds "later flowers for the bees" and "the fume of poppies. the nuts. bursting into ripeness. Autumn. taste. corresponding Utopian language. According to this view. the bleating of the full-grown lambs. which is a lyric poem that addresses and honours a subject—in this case. . the cycle of nature has been completed. and the twittering of the swallows as they gather for their flight toward summer. and the honeycombs swell. and gleaning the crops. “drows’d by the fume of poppies”. the whistling song of the redbreast. and the organic. Romantics believe in the classical view of nature (think Garden of Eden here). so it is classical. she watches the “last oozings hours by hours. most every noun can be one. Autumn moves slowly amid her stores." the "cider press. the mellowness of ripe apples. Keats emphasizes the sense of sight in the second stanza by inviting the reader to see autumn as harvester. The sights evoke a certain lassitude. Most of the examples above can also be sight images. Although visual beauty is evoked by the sun going down on the “stubble plains. The Romantics sought to wrest poetry from the elitists and render in anew for the common man. smell. He accepts death as a natural part of the life cycle. "In regards to smell (the least used method of imagery here)." and simply the plural noun "apples.” The frantic movements so prevalent in the first stanza are slowly replaced by stasis in the second stanza until time seems no longer to move toward winter. spilling out of their shells. The poem also uses the metaphor of Autumn (or nature) as a goddess. nature. The sharp smell of the early-morning mist. worthy of an ode (poetry). where in the midday heat of a fall day all sounds were hushed. even more than Spring. hearing.” it is the sense of hearing that sets the tone in the last stanza. she sleeps. her hair “soft -lifted by the winnowing wind. One hears the mourning sound of the gnats. LINK TO ROMANTICS John Keats' "To Autumn" is an ode. The poem also inductively addresses the theme of beauty in death. Nothing appears static in this stanza.

One gives birth to the other. But while in “England in 1819” he concentrates on the cruelties of the present. then a spirit. the actof writing about nature is an act of meta-cognition by the speaker. So. The first stanza references the bounty of early autumn before the harvest. Keats's poem offers up an acceptance of this cycle of life and death. It deals with harvesting grain. which is also the promise of death. then a voice. compared with his other odes. He recognizes his own mental harvesting of the natural beauty and knowledge that Autumn affords. where are they? Think not of them. In revolutionary terms. In terms of the poem’s historical context. The personification of Autumn could be considered an allusion to the mythology of ancient Greece. However. the speaker realizes that the approach of death brought by Autumn can be just as beautiful as the promise of life found in the Spring. the wind is evoked as an element that is beyond human control. the poem subtly recalls the myth of Persephone.” this poem does not include as many overt allusions to ancient Greece. through the action of the wind. GREEK MYTH Keats wrote the poem "To Autumn" late in his poetic career. Rather. here the focus is on the force of renewal itself. these “dead leaves” might . and death and destruction is inevitably followed by new life and renewal. and Hades. Demeter. In the final stanza. Like “England in 1819” its subject is the need for some form of revolution to renew a dead and corrupt world full of suffering and injustice. The poem consists of three stanzas. A crucial aspect of Shelley’s verse is that while present conditions are named with great precision and concreteness. and it has been referred to as one of the most perfect poems in the English language.The poem is very meta. It remains invisible and intangible. the speaker addresses a personified Autumn by saying: Where are the songs of Spring? Ay. then a trumpet call. Shelley’s vision of the wind as simultaneously “destroyer and preserver” means that destruction and creation are inseparable. the “dead leaves” of the old world are transformed into airborne seeds and will bloom in the spring of the new world. The wind is first a breath. ODE TO THE WEST WIND This is one of Shelley’s most lyrical poetic prophecies. thou hast thy music too By noting this. the second personifies Autumn as a harvester. which is symbolic of knowledge. though one in stasis. "Ode to a Grecian Urn" and "Ode to Psyche. a symbol of the cycle of nature where every cold winter is inevitably followed by spring. In the passage from autumn to spring. the forces of change inevitably remain abstract. And this force takes the form of the “West Wind”. and the third stanza describes the chilly end of the season and the promise of winter.

STYLISTICS FEATURES The form of “Ode to the West Wind” is an interesting hybrid which combines elements of the Elizabethan sonnet with those of Dante’s terza rima. Anastrophe is inversion of the normal word order. In this sense. the poem is extremely inventive. In the last section of the poem. Shelley’s prophecy of revolution is not simply related to the creation of another society or another nation. conveys the idea of perpetual movement and renewal that Shelly associates with the wind. This form also contributes to our sense of the poem’s meaning. Metaphor: Comparison of the west wind to breath of Autumn's being (line 1). The poem is divided into 5 sonnetlike blocks. where he asks for the impossible. breathing creature (line 1). Metaphor: Comparison of autumn to a living. the poet addresses the west wind as if it were a person. each of fourteen lines. For Shelley. This desire is linked to a wish to break free of the limits of his mortal human body. Shelley. the fact that it never rests or arrives at any final form. a pure spirit of eternal prophecy. Shelly uses different sense and sound associations to express the elusive qualities of the wind. At these moments we feel Shelley trying to break the boundaries of language that separate him from the wind. However. Personification: Throughout the poem. As the poem continues. expresses a desire to be carried himself on the current of the wind and to become its instrument and voice. Examples of Figures of Speech and Rhetorical Devices Alliteration: Wild West Wind (line 1) Apostrophe. anticipating the mass emigration of Europe’s oppressed poor to the United States. the wind’s strength as a revolutionary force is in its perpetual movement . understanding that the wind cannot “hear” his words.allude to be movement of people. with a rhyming couplet at the end. in which the second line of each verse generates the rhyme of the first and last lines of the following verse. Anastrophe: leaves dead (line 2). for the wind to listen to him. In terms of its languages. There are also frequent exclamations such as “O uncontrollable!” and the repeated “O. so we have the impression of the poem stopping and then starting again in a series of flights and rests. we see that his desire is for the wind of revolution to keep things “up in the air” and not to limit itself to any precise form of realization. Meanwhile the use of terza rima . to become himself like the wind. as in a man forgotten (instead of a forgotten man ) or as in the opening lines of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Kubla Kahn": . he sees his own words like the dead leaves which are scattered over the world by the wind to become seeds of renewal planted in the minds of readers. hear!”.

. Alliteration: Wild Spirit. o hear (line 14) Apostrophe. a stringed musical instrument (line 57). Alliteration: The tumult of thy mighty harmonies (line 59). Alliteration: Pestilence-stricken multitudes (line 5) Alliteration: chariotest to (line 6). Personification: The poet addresses the west wind as if it were a person. Kubla Kahn decreed a stately pleasure dome). Spirit fierce. Metaphor: Comparison of the poet to a forest (line 58). Alliteration: flocks to feed Simile: Comparison of buds to flocks (line 11). which (line 13). Alliteration: the winged seeds. Here is another example. made up to demonstrate the inverted word order of anastrophe: In the garden green and dewy A rose I plucked for Huey Simile: Comparison of dead leaves to ghosts. . where they (line 7) Metaphor: Comparison of seeds to flying creatures (line 7). 12). Personification: Comparison of earth to a dreamer (line 10). Alliteration: sister of the spring (line 9) Personification: Comparison of spring wind to a person (lines 9-10).In Xanada did Kubla Kahn / A stately pleasure dome decree (instead of In Xanadu. Alliteration: hear. Be thou. (line 61) . Simile: Comparison of each seed to a corpse (lines 7-8). Anastrophe: fill / . Paradox: Destroyer and preserver (line 14). Metaphor. With living hues and odours plain and hill (lines 10. Anastrophe: enchanter fleeing (line 3). Metaphor: Comparison of the poet and the forest to a lyre. Alliteration: sweet though in sadness.

the following end-of-line word pairs would . Alliteration: Drive my dead thoughts over the universe (line 63). consider the first three tercets of the second stanza of "Ode to the West Wind. Eye rhyme occurs when the pronunciation of the last syllable of one line is different from the pronunciation of the last syllable of another line even though both syllables are identical in spelling except fora preceding consonant. The locks of the approaching storm. even from the dim verge Of the horizon to the zenith's height. Shelley wrote the tercets in a verse form called terza rima ./ If Winter comes. second tercet) and that surge (second line. Shook from the tangled boughs of heaven and ocean. Simile: Comparison of thoughts to withered leaves (lines 63-64). Each stanza has three tercets and a closing couplet.Metaphor: Comparison of the poet to the wind (line 62). In this format. second tercet) rhymes with verge and dirge (first and third lines. In poetry. In regard to the latter. third tercet). Alliteration: my words among mankind (67) Metaphor: Comparison of the poet's voice to the wind as a trumpet of a prophecy (lines 68-69) Alliteration: trumpet of a prophecy (lines 68-69) Alliteration: O Wind. Thou on whose stream. line 2 of one tercet rhymes with lines 1 and 3 of the next tercet. a tercet is a unit of three lines that usually contain end rhyme. can Spring be far behind? Structure and Rhyme Scheme The poem contains five stanzas of fourteen lines each. Alliteration: the incantation of this (line 65) Simile: Comparison of words to ashes and sparks (66-67)." Notice that shed (second line. For example. Thou dirge All of the couplets in the poem rhyme. Angels of rain and lightning! there are spread On the blue surface of thine airy surge Like the bright hair uplifted from the head 20 Of some fierce Mænad. a couplet is a two-line unit that usually contains end rhyme. 'mid the steep sky's commotion. but the last couplet (lines 69-70) is an imperfect rhyme called eye rhyme. first tercet) rhymes with spread and head (first and third lines. invented by Dante Alighieri. Loose clouds like earth's decaying leaves are shed.

In Shelley's poem. . Shelley unifies the content of the poem by focusing the first three stanzas on the powers of the wind and the last two stanzas on the poet's desire to use these powers to spread his words throughout the world. laughter. cow. daughter. rummaging. raging.constitute eye rhyme: cough. mow. wind and behind form eye rhyme. rough.

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