The Poem, To Autumn by John Keats

The Poem, To Autumn by John Keats

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In the poem “To Autumn” the initial impression that we get is that Keats is describing a typical Autumn day with all its colors and images. On deeper reading it becomes evident that it is more than just that. The poem is rather a celebration of the cycle of life and acceptance that death is part of life.

The first stanza begins with Keats painting a picture of Autumn as being a “season of mist and mellow fruitfulness”. This is used in conjunction with the use of the image of a “maturing sun” which ripens the Autumn harvest of views and the fruits. The excessiveness of the Autumn harvest is achieved with the use of hyperbole. He describes the fruit being ripened to the core, the gourds are swelled, the hazel nuts plumped and trees bend from the weight of the apples. So the first stanza describes quiet vividly the fullness and abundance of life.

The second stanza has a bit of a different approach where Keats is addressing someone. He personifies Autumn as a woman for he refers to Autumn by “thy hair is soft-lifted by the winnowing wind”. In line 12 he addresses Autumn to rhetorical question. It is clear that Autumn is the time for harvesting, gathering and preparing for the Winter that lies ahead. The stanza ends appropriately in that it literally describes the process of the last apples being pressed for cider, but more importantly it describes the last breathes of life being squeezed out of Autumn.

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The third stanza continues with another two rhetorical questions, one reiterating the other “where are the Songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?” This stanza is probably the bleakest of the three as there is direct reference to death. Words like “soft-dying day”, “mourn”, “The light wind lives or dies” are all references to the dying of Autumn.
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