Summary of To Autumn
In the opening stanza , Keats’s speaker is talking about Autumn and how it has a close relationship with the sun, which makes fruits ripen and flowers bloom. In the second stanza, the speaker presents Autumn as a female goddess, frequently observed seated on the granary floor, her hair “softly lifted” by the wind, and frequently resting in the fields or watching a cider press squeeze the juice from apples. The speaker instructs Autumn in the third stanza not to wonder where the spring songs have gone, but to listen to her own melody. At twilight, “small gnats” hum among the “river sallows,” or willow trees lifted and dropped by the wind, “full-grown lambs” bleat from the hills, crickets sing, robins whistle from the garden, and swallows assemble for their upcoming migration sing from the skies.
“To Autumn,” like “Ode on Melancholy,” is written in three stanzas with a varied rhyme pattern. Each stanza is eleven lines long (rather than ten in “Melancholy”) and is metered in a relatively exact iambic pentameter. Each stanza is roughly divided into two halves in terms of both topic arrangement and rhyme pattern. The first portion of each stanza consists of the first four lines of the stanza, and the second part consists of the remaining seven lines. Each stanza begins with an ABAB rhyme pattern, with the first line rhyming with the third and the second line rhyming with the fourth. The second section of each stanza is longer and has a different rhyme scheme: the first stanza is CDEDCCE, and the second and third stanzas are CDECDDE. (Thematically, the first portion of each stanza serves to define the stanza’s subject, while the second part allows for contemplation, development, and speculation on that subject; however, this theme division is only very general.)
Analysis of To Autumn
A cursory reading of ‘To Autumn’ would lead one to believe that John Keats is depicting a normal autumn day, complete with colourful and rich imagery. But, before I go into the essence of the poem, I will go over its structure, type, and rhyme.
The poem is an ode with three stanzas, each of which includes eleven lines. In terms of rhyme, ‘To Autumn’ does not follow a strict pattern. The first stanza uses an ABABCDEDCCE pattern, whereas the second and third use an ABABCDECDDE pattern. It is crucial to note, however, that a poetic licence arises in the third stanza. To rhyme with ‘found,’ the word ‘wind’ (line 15) is pronounced [waind].
As for the poem’s meaning, as I mentioned before, the author paints a vivid picture of autumn at first glance. The opening stanza depicts this season as foggy and fertile, ripening the fruit of the vines with the help of a’maturing sun.’ Following that, we can easily discern an exaggeration. Line 5 of Keats’ poem describes a tree with so many apples that it bends, while gourds swell and hazel shells plump. Finally, Keats implies that the bees have a lot of blossoms. And these flowers did not bloom in the summer, but rather in the autumn. As a result, the bees have been working nonstop since summer, and their honeycombs are overflowing.
There is a clear personification in the second stanza. The poet begins by posing a rhetorical inquiry (line 12) to Autumn, who is now not only a woman but also a gleaner. This woman, on the other hand, appears to be resting in a granary or in the landscape:
‘Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies…’
Because she is not using her hook, several flowers that were going to be cut remain uncut (lines 17 and 18). We can also see an image of her hair moving slowly. Autumn waits patiently for the ‘final oozings’ of cider at the end of the stanza.
The third stanza returns to rhetorical queries. In the first, Keats asks the woman where she can hear the sounds of spring. The second question is simply a rehash of the first. The poet, on the other hand, tells Autumn that she has her own noises, some of which are sad:
‘Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn’
The ‘full-grown lambs’, on the other hand, bleat loudly, the crickets sing, a red-breasted whistles, and swallows warble in the sky. Keats also portrays a day that is dying, ending, and, as a result, becoming rose-colored (lines 25 and 26). As I mentioned a few lines before, the concluding lines of this stanza are a combination of autumn sounds and animal sounds (lines 30 to 33).
Although John Keats was merely expressing the primary aspects of autumn and the human and animal activity associated with it, a closer reading may conclude that Keats is discussing the process of life. Autumn represents maturity in both human and animal existence. The ‘full-grown lambs,’ the gnats’ sadness, the wind that lives and dies, and the day that is dying and turning dark are all examples of this. Winter, as we all know, is the following season, a time of year that depicts ageing and death, or, in other words, the end of life. However, death does not have a bad connotation in my perspective because Keats enjoys and accepts ‘autumn’ or maturity as a part of life, even when winter is approaching.
“To Autumn” is one of Keats’ simplest odes in terms of form and descriptive surface. Keats’ paean to the season of autumn, with its fruitfulness, flowers, and the singing of swallows collecting for migration, is neither perplexing nor convoluted. This poem’s amazing achievement rests in its capacity to propose, explore, and develop a plethora of subjects while remaining peaceful, sweet, and charming in its description of autumn. Whereas “Ode on Melancholy” is about a heroic journey, “To Autumn” is about the much calmer practise of daily observation and appreciation. The accumulated concepts of the preceding odes find their greatest and most beautiful expression in this silence.
“To Autumn” picks off where the previous odes leave off. It, too, depicts Keats’ speaker paying respect to a specific goddess—in this case, the deified season of Autumn. This season’s selection indirectly picks up on the other odes’ themes of temporality, mortality, and change: Autumn is a time of warmth and plenty in Keats’ ode, but it is also a time of desolation, as the bees enjoy “later flowers,” the harvest is taken from the fields, the lambs of spring are now “full grown,” and, in the poem’s final line, the swallows gather for their winter voyage. The final line’s understated feeling of unavoidable loss makes it one of the most poignant passages in all of poetry; it can be viewed as a basic, uncomplicated distillation of the entire human predicament.
Despite the approaching chill of winter, the late warmth of autumn gives Keats’ speaker with plenty of beauty to celebrate: the home and its surrounds in the first stanza, the goddess’s agrarian haunts in the second, and natural creature habitats in the third. Because of the lessons he has learned in the previous odes, Keats’ speaker is able to experience these beauties in a sincere and meaningful way: he is no longer indolent, no longer committed to the isolated imagination (as in “Psyche”), no longer attempting to escape the pain of the world through ecstatic rapture (as in “Nightingale”), no longer frustrated by the attempt to eternalize mortal beauty or subject eternal beauty to time (a
The speaker’s perception of beauty in “To Autumn” alludes to past odes (the swallows recall the nightingale; the fruit recalls joy’s grape; the goddess drowsing among the poppies recalls Psyche and Cupid laying in the meadow), but it also alludes to a plethora of older poetry. Most notably, the image of Autumn winnowing and harvesting (in a succession of odes frequently expressly about creativity) echoes an earlier Keats poem in which harvesting is an explicit metaphor for artistic production. Keats makes this connection directly in his sonnet “When I have fears that I may cease to be”:
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactry, Hold like rich garners the full ripen’d grain…
The act of creativity is portrayed in this poem as a form of self-harvesting; the pen harvests the fields of the brain, and books are filled with the resulting “grain.” In “To Autumn,” the metaphor is expanded upon; the sense of impending loss that pervades the poem confronts the pain that lies behind the season’s creation. When Autumn’s harvest is finished, the fields will be bare, the “twined flowers” swaths will be cut down, the cider-press will be dry, and the skies will be empty. However, the fact that this harvesting is linked to the natural cycle softens the blow of the catastrophe. Spring will return, the fields will expand, and the birds will sing once more. As the speaker of “Melancholy” knew, abundance and loss, joy and grief, music and quiet are all as inextricably linked as the twined flowers in the meadows. What makes “To Autumn” attractive is because it takes the engagement with that link out of mythology and fancy and into the real world. The speaker’s evolution, which he rejected so vehemently in “Indolence,” is now complete: he has learnt that embracing mortality is not incompatible with an appreciation of beauty, and he has gained knowledge by accepting the passage of time.