To Autumn, John Keats

"In 'To Autumn', Keats expresses his love of this beautiful time of year, a season that has inspired many artists before and since, including photographers."

John Keats lived only 25 years from 1795-1821, but in those short years, he made a place for himself as one of the greatest Romantic poets in the English language. He came from humble beginnings, but a combination of private encouragement and public criticism pushed him to refine his poetic craft to the highest standard. Many of his poems, including 'To Autumn', have been described as dignified, melodic and filled with rich imagery. He communicates a visceral joy in the beauty he saw around him, dedicating many of his poems to objects, places, and nature. In To Autumn, Keats expresses his love of this beautiful time of year, a season that has inspired many artists before and since, including photographers...

For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells. Or by a cyder-press. Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run. And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue. borne aloft Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies.— While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day. and now with treble soft The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft. where are they? Think not of them. Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind. Where are the songs of Spring? Ay. Until they think warm days will never cease. And gathering swallows twitter in the skies. . To swell the gourd. with patient look. 3. Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn Among the river sallows. thou hast thy music too. to set budding more. And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core. And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn. Hedge-crickets sing. Drows’d with the fume of poppies. Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep. and plump the hazel shells With a sweet kernel. later flowers for the bees. Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find Thee sitting careless on a granary floor. And still more.2 John Keats (1795-1821) TO AUTUMN 1. Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun. while thy hook Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers: And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep Steady thy laden head across a brook. 2. SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness. To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees. Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

because when you relate it to the sounds of nature that Keats . My initial approach. So already. To demonstrate how this works. you have all the necessary skills and equipment in place already. apples. Get physical with the poem. You have got to try to see what Keats is seeing. silently. paying attention to such items as rhyme. become the poet. Indian Summer type sun and buzzing bees. though.3 When you are asked to analyze a poem. take a look at Keats' 'Ode to Autumn'. is to ignore these in favor of just using your brain. see a less bright. now say them or read them again. you can do it. you can identify visual imagery . This is because you are a unique. but I guarantee that if you start your analysis by using those you have." but don't forget you have said those words aloud. or read the interpretation most books provide. imagery and all the thousands of literary terms that leave you reeling.or to an appreciative audience. granary bread. then you are well on the way to understanding and appreciating poetry. Now. How do I know this. how we see misty mornings. thinking. see birds preparing to leave for Winter in warmer places. The only word that might grab you could be "songs".ok. Do not worry about word that you find unfamiliar. Now you may not have all five. "Nah". but sometimes warming sun. that's good enough. let us really listen to the sounds. equipped with senses.but don't go there yet. meter. Because if you like words and love music. you have no need for an audience this time. depending on your current state of mind . or maybe it could be "music" . No. Read it again. just read it aloud to yourself. I will give you some good web sites and a few tips to clarify the technicalities. Everybody can relate to Fall. enjambment. voice. feeling human being. After I go through how I believe this works for everybody. As you have guessed. you say "it's words on a page. imagination and those senses. I assure you. or retching. So now you have spoken the words. who is not going to use this as evidence of insanity or lack of cool). and how can I make such a huge generalization? Well. straight away. (or if you have a completely trustworthy friend or lover or whatever. the words that recall sounds for you. fruit. unless you are a plank of wood or a big rock that somebody brought into the classroom and forgot about. you can look them up later. mist. He gives you images of what he looks upon. see drowsy insects. and hear in your mind. harvested goodness.do not panic. seen the pictures and heard yourself.

Which is why I am leaving this part to the end. smell and taste go together. analyze or even throw in the waste-bin! The poet is portraying his or her experiences. Call to mind what you understand by "plump" or "swell" or "stubble" or "close-bosomed" . so immerse yourself in what they are sharing first . I mean. suggesting sweet golden honey to eat. You have "sweet kernel" "cyder presses". or physical imagery. slimy and crunchy? I speak of steak. I leave it to you as to whether you read aloud or silently . Again. They are wordsmiths. think about how boring and unappetizing food becomes when you have a cold.4 expresses. What I hope is.I personally would declaim the poem with meaning and feeling. it is entirely your choice whether you read it aloud or savor it quietly. that they say it for the rest of us. you have hit the auditory image nail on the head.then let us address the technicalities. the analysis that seems to take the soul out of a poem. because you are going to touch. Who wants to eat something chewy. that links to your own experience. dissect. enjoy. Keats to be somebody you would not mind talking with. fried onions and french fries. dream-catchers. painters. OK. encapsulating emotions that are so universal to the human condition. crickets singing. you have found something to connect with. share a tactile moment with John. you have read the poem four times and I really hope terminal boredom has not taken away the will to live. But teacher needs more. So with that as my justification. you have got to get into the technical detail. because he tells it like it is and you know now where he is coming from. Next. without the aromas that tickle the taste buds. scents to savor. because of a blocked nose. The whole thing is building into something sensual. But first let us apply these ideas to every poem you will read. For this. such as lambs bleating. alive and tangible. appley smells making your mouth water. Next. the literary labels. or at any rate. with the nutty. lit up your imagination. I suggest you read the Foreword to the .OK behave yourself! But you will have experienced three dimensional. and so on. That you feel Mr. I would ask you to put taste and smell together because I think they are almost inseparable. not to mention "fruit with ripeness to the core. that has touched you sensually. swallows twittering. savoring scent and flavor. better than we can ourselves." and the flowers for the bees.

use your own voice always. hear it. but leave that till after you have drawn your own conclusions.edu/english/melani/lit_ter ms. to find that there are very clever people out there with tons of letters after their names (I've got ounces). you have used the best and most effective analytical tools at your disposal .html and at http://owl. smell it and taste it for yourself first . so will help you to put the labels on the literary contexts. teaching analyzing and just plain enjoying all forms of literature. This will give you background to your poet. The good websites I would recommend for you are as follows:Elements of Poetry:.c uny. I beg you. Next. and if not.helium. We must remember the Internet.5 book in which you find your poem.edu/ handouts/print/general/gl_html Bear in mind.html Literary Terms: http://www. Some versions may even define linguistic terms. but more important.com/2613/ poetry. always. It also contains footnotes that clarify old meanings. is very comforting. get out the Norton Poetry Anthology.brooklyn. use your dictionary or encyclopedia. a marvelous source. Just feel it. a sort of affirmation of your interpretations. do not do this until you have reached your own conclusions. see it.Chipspage.http://www. and a time-line you can relate to the genre. created by Delores Moore http://www. who think the same. But be picky. but hey.academic. via your unique qualities and senses. you have already worked them out for yourself. So you can always go to Google and put in the poet's name.that is the biggest and most useful tip I can give.english. the Introduction is brilliant for explanations on poetic construction. imagination and senses. the poem and the word 'themes and tons of helpful stuff will appear.your mind. your greatest and best tool for poetry analysis is you.purdue.com/items/240265-tips-on-poetry-analysis-using-ode-to-autumn-by-john-keats-1819 . After nearly 50 years of reading. After all.

chaste weather--Dian skies--I never lik'd stubble fields so much as now--Aye better than the chilly green of the spring. (1) There is no visionary dreamer or attempted flight from reality in this poem. The Composition of "To Autumn" Keats wrote "To Autumn" after enjoying a lovely autumn day. A temperate sharpness about it." Allen Tate agrees that it "is a very nearly perfect piece of style". with its mixture of ripening. . fulfillment. concrete imagery immerses the reader in the sights. flux. The poem is grounded in the real world. accompanied by a lyre. and death. "it has little to say. dying. Really. such as the elegy. the vivid. without joking. however. (I am using the words process." General Comments This ode is a favorite with critics and poetry lovers alike. he described his experience in a letter to his friend Reynolds: "How beautiful the season is now--How fine the air. and the ode. Because this ode describes the process of fruition and decay in autumn. The emotion is or seems personal In classical Greece. Each stanza integrates suggestions of its opposite or its predecessors.) Keats totally accepts the natural world. for they are inherent in autumn also. the dramatic monologue. feel. in fact. and change interchangeably in my discussion of Keats's poems. and sounds of autumn and its progression. Type of lyric poem: ode Ode: a poem of high seriousness with irregular stanzaic forms. and as close to perfect as any shorter poem in the English Language. (2) With its depiction of the progression of autumn. the poem is an unqualified celebration of process. but there are also significant differences. Harold Bloom calls it "one of the subtlest and most beautiful of all Keats's odes. the lyric was a poem written to be sung. there is no narrative voice or persona at all. keep in mind the passage of time as you read it.6 Classification of Poem Type of poem: lyric poem Lyric Poetry: a short poem with one speaker (not necessarily the poet) who expresses thought and feeling. Though it is sometimes used only for a brief poem about feeling (like the sonnet). he goes on to say. Somehow a stubble plain looks warm--in the same way that some pictures look warm--this struck me so much in my Sunday's walk that I composed upon it." This ode deals with the some of the concerns presented in his other odes.it is more often applied to a poem expressing the complex evolution of thoughts and feeling.

Initially autumn and the sun "load and bless" by ripening the fruit. The bees cannot handle this abundance. explosive." "To swell. Keats constructs the details using parallelism. however. and clearly it is one unit. What is the effect of these sounds--harsh. also called a dependent clause (note the subordinating conjunction "until"). the gourds "swell. but are over-full or brimming over with honey.7 Analysis Stanza I: Keats describes autumn with a series of specific. From lines 3 to 9. for their cells are "o'er-brimm'd. m." and "to set. Certain sounds recur in the beginning lines--s. concrete. or soft? How do they contribute to the effect of the stanza. . read them aloud and listen. without judgment. l." The danger of being overwhelmed by fertility that has no end is suggested in the flower and bee images in the last four lines of the stanza.and plump. The stanza begins with autumn at the peak of fulfillment and continues the ripening to an almost unbearable intensity.." "To bend. he uses a subordinate clause. if they do? The final point I wish to make about this stanza is subtle and sophisticated and will probably interest you only if you like grammar and enjoy studying English: The first stanza is punctuated as one sentence. It is not. vivid visual images. By omitting the verb. it has no verb." In other words..and fill. a complete sentence. their cells are not just full. the bees have been gathering and storing honey since summer. In the first two and a half lines." In the last two lines. Keats refers to "more" later flowers "budding" (the -ing form suggests activity that is ongoing or continuing). But the apples become so numerous that their weight bends the trees." and the hazel nuts "plump. Keats focuses on the details of ripening. "Clammy" describes moisture.. Find the words that contain these letters. the details take the infinitive form (to plus a verb): "to load and bless. the potentially overwhelming number of flowers is suggested by the repetition "And still more" flowers.. the sun and autumn conspire (suggesting a close working relationship and intention). its unpleasant connotations are accepted as natural. the subordinate or dependent clause is appropriate because the oversupply of honey is the result of-or dependent upon--the seemingly unending supply of flowers. Process or change is also suggested by the reference to Summer in line 11.

he accepts the reality of the mixed nature of the world. or does nature remain an abstraction? Is there a sense of depletion. Keats blends living and dying." Find other words that indicate slowing down. autumn spells death for the now "fullgrown" lambs which were born in spring. crosses a brook and watches a cider press. this stanza slows down and contains almost no movement. and apple cider is still being pressed." the winnowed hair refers to ripe grain still standing. The press is squeezing out "the last oozings. because they are inextricably one. a dying or death? Does the personification of autumn as a reaper with a scythe suggest another kind of reaper--the Grim Reaper? Speak the last line of this stanza aloud. the gnats "mourn" in a "wailful choir" and the doomed lambs bleat (Why does Keats use "lambs.8 Stanza II The ongoing ripening of stanza I. that is. they are slaughtered in autumn. It is a "light" or enjoyable wind that "lives or dies. the setting sun casts a "bloom" of "rosy hue" over the dried stubble left after the harvest. . And the answer to the question of line 1. the furrow is "half-reap'd. The day. Notice that Keats describes a reaper who is not harvesting and who is not turning the press. spring is a time of a rebirth of life. the pleasant and the unpleasant. Is the personification successful. Is Keats using the sound of words to reinforce and/or to parallel the meaning of the line? Stanza III Spring in line 1 has the same function as Summer in stanza I. Otherwise Autumn is listless and even falls asleep. like the season. the end of the cycle is near. this includes the dying. Keats accepts all aspects of autumn. The dying of day is presented favorably." The swallows are gathering for their winter migration. personified as a reaper or a harvester." rather than "sheep" here? would the words have a different effect on the reader?). However. The auditory details that follow are autumn's songs. is dying. Furthermore. Some work remains. is that they are past or dead." Its dying also creates beauty. they represent process. has neared completion. where are Spring's songs." and the treble of the robin is pleasantly "soft. an association which contrasts with the explicitly dying autumn of this stanza. the flux of time. which if continued would become unbearable. of things coming to an end? Does the slowing down of the process suggest a stopping. and so he introduces sadness. and listen to the pace (how quickly or slowly you say the words). "soft-dying. In addition. Autumn. does nature become a person with a personality.

Line 5. Line 7. pumpkins. gleaner: a person who gathers what the reapers have left in a field. Poppies are the source of opium. thatch: covering of a roof made of straw. o'er: poetic form of over. poetic usage. stubble: the dried stumps of wheat and other grains left after reaping. . borne aloft: carried high. leaves. hoizontal clouds which resemble bars or strips. mossed: covered with moss. hook: a sickle or scythe. poppy: poppies used to grow in fields of grain. Line 10. a storehouse or warehouse. cells: honey-filled cells or honeycomb in the beehive. Line 3. Line 8. bourn: domain or realm. the path cut in one sweep of a scythe. furrow: a cut or trench made by a plow. Stanza III Line 3. gourd: the groud family includes squash. thus the cells are overfilled. and cucumbers. granary: a storehouse for grain. store: an abundance. maturing sun: causes to mature.9 Vocabulary and Allusions Stanza I Line 2. croft: a small enclosed field. Line 7. swath: the sweep of a scythe in mowing. winnowing: to separate the chaff from the grain by fanning or by means of the wind. often after it has been threshed (the grain has been beaten from the rest of the plant). Line 7. Line 8. Line 4. barred clouds: thin. Line 6. twined: poetic form of entwined or twisted. Line 6. drowsed: made sleepy. Line 11. cider-press: a machine that squeezes apples to make cider. eaves: overhang of roof. or other dried plants. Line 5. a plowed field. that is. a great quantity. Line 4. Stanza II Line 1. the sun makes the fruit ripen. used to harvest grains and other crops. Line 4. sallows: willows.

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