Even though both John Keats’s “To Autumn” and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” are about the same season, they are very dissimilar. Keats’s poem concentrates on the creating power of autumn, and makes it seem a gentle season, while in Shelley’s poem death is a repeating image, and shows autumn’s destroying power.
In “To Autumn”, Keats uses three stanzas of eleven lines each. The first seven lines of each stanza follow an ABABCDE rhyme-scheme. The remaining four lines of the first stanza follow a rhyme-scheme that is different from the other two stanzas. The first stanza has DCCE and the other two have CDDE. Some lines in the poem are indented, whereas others are not. Numbering the not indented lines 1, the lines with one extra spacing 2, and the lines with two extra spaces 3, the indenting of the lines follows exactly the same pattern as the rhyme-scheme, namely 1212-123-2113 for the first stanza, and 1212-123-1223 for the other stanzas.
Shelley’s stanzas are composed of four interlinking triplets, following the principle of terza rima, and one couplet. The stanzas have ABA BCB CDC DED EE rhyme-scheme. Both poems have alliteration to emphasize the quality of the season: “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” shows the kind nature of Keats’s autumn, while “O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumns being” shows the powerful character of Shelley’s autumn.
The first stanza of “To Autumn” describes the way in which autumn is able to support life. On the one hand, its about ripeness as things grow older as the year is approaches its end, and helped by the “maturing sun” (l. 2), autumn has to “fill all fruits with ripeness to t...
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...ally a form of hibernation.
In “Ode to the West Wind”, death is a recurrent theme, but death is also mentioned in “To Autumn”. In Keats’s poem, however, it is clear that the creative power of autumn dominates the references to death. In “Ode to the West Wind”, the autumn is not only the brutal power it seemed to be at first: according to Shelley, autumn also has the ability to preserve life, by letting it die symbolically first. All in all, both poems show that autumn has a number of different facets, and it cannot be described by one or the other, but all.
Keats, John. Ode to Autumn. The Norton Anthology of English Lit. Ed. M. H. Abrams, et al. 7th ed. Vol 2. New York: Norton, 2000.
Shelley, Percy B. "Ode to the West Wind." The Oxford Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Frank Kermode and John Hollander, New York: Oxford UP, 1973.
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