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Analysis of Keats To Autumn

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Analysis of Keats’ To Autumn

To Autumn was a poem composed by John Keats, a famous romantic poet who was regarded as a genius by Shelly. His odes are among the mightiest achievements of English verse.

In To Autumn, Keats presents a colorful and vivid picture of the autumn, and gives expression to his own thoughts on life as well. This poem shows some of the main features of Romanticism such as the admiration of nature, the use of imagination, the stress on emotion and on artistic effect. Particularly, it is a good example of Keats' poetic principle of "negative power". But by analyzing both the poem and its background, we may find that although Keats wants to conceal his own feeling, this poem, with both its language and its content, is a true reflection of his thoughts and life experience

To Autumn deals with the presence of nature and how autumn itself is more significant than any of the other seasons. What most called my attention was the infinite number of images you can imagine by reading it. It seems that john Keats describes what he imagine and while reading it, I can create the picture in my mind, of what he is seeing.

To Autumn has three stanzas. Each of three stanzas shows us different time of a day and different time of autumn. I thought this poem exhibited two kinds of progression of time. First is the time of day. The first stanza is the morning with the "mists". The second is late afternoon, when the hot sun is beating down and makes everyone drowsy. The third is at sunset with the "barred clouds" piercing the sky with its "rosy hue".

This poem also shows a progression in the season of autumn itself. The first stanza is early autumn because "summer has o'er brimmed. It shows the maturing of summer’s bounty. The second is mid-autumn, because it's time for harvest. The third is late autumn because the birds are headed south for winter.

In this Ode, from its beginning to the end, matter and manner are not only superbly blended, but every line carries its noble freight of beauty. In its inception, the poet seizes the essence of autumn---the fruitfulness. He leads readers to touring with him, from the azure sky to the vine-covered thatch-eaves, from the mossed cottage-trees to the fruitful field. The description of the ripe fruits is a highlight in this stanza, such as the red apples, the golden gourds, the brown hazel shells and the later flowers that attracting bees. A colorful early-autumn picture is vividly taken on before the readers.

To the poet, the autumn is not simply the change of season, but has been given life. In the second stanza, the autumn is personified to be a British farmer on a granary floor, a reaper on the furrow, a gleaner by the brook, a peasant by the cider-press. The lively laborer is the incarnation of the intangible autumn, which can be touched and sensed by everyone.

In traditional poems about autumn, the voices in autumn are always sad and bleak. However, Keats’ To Autumn brims with happiness and harmony. In the third stanza, the poet tells Autumn not to wonder where the songs of spring have gone, but instead to listen to her own music. At twilight, the “small gnats” hum above the shallows of the river, lifted and dropped by the wind, and “full-grown lambs” bleat from the hills, crickets sing, robins whistle from the garden, and swallows, gathering for their coming migration, sing from the skies. In this harmonious symphony, Keats accomplishes his eternal hymn to autumn and the Great Nature.

If subject matter alone guaranteed acclaim then any poem about a beautiful autumnal day might win devotees. What elevates ‘To Autumn’ beyond the ordinary is Keats’s quite extraordinary deployment of poetic techniques. To Autumn is written in a three-stanza structure with a variable rhyme scheme. Each stanza is eleven lines long and each is metered in a relatively precise iambic pentameter. Assonance, alliteration, rhythm, rhyme, collocation and imagery are skillfully exploited and combined to create a poem of quite staggering technical attempt: a poem which, far from being straightforward, reveals a complex relationship between poet, subject and reader.

The poem’s famous opening line, “Season of mellow mists and fruitfulness” is often quoted as the example of Keats’s masterful use of alliteration and assonance but these devices are employed throughout the poem. For example: line four, is saved by the almost hypnotic repetition of ‘th’ phonemes, the further alliteration of round/run, the repetition of long vowels (vines, round, run) and the assonance of the /a/ sound in that/thatch. The enjambment of aloft/or emphasizes the first “or” and this emphasis is highlighted further by its repetition and the assonance of mourn/borne/or. All together add musical regularity to Keats’s practice in prosody.

Knowing that Keats wrote To Autumn shortly before his death, it is tempting to read the poem as a metaphor for his acceptance of the fate that will soon befall him. Certainly, the circumstances of Keats’s life give the poem an added poignancy, but even without that knowledge there is sufficient evidence in the poem to suggest that it is more than mere description of a beautiful autumnal day: that it addresses both the ‘sweet’ and the ‘sour’ nature of a transitory season and blurs the boundaries between them.

To me this poem is more about the approaching death of Keats and the autumn prior to the ravages and harshness of winter. It is a romantic poem, of opportunities missed and pleasant gains. It contrasts with the misery of day to day life, with a progressive illness in the early 19th century, which only opium can offer some respite. Keats was clearly in a bad way, although facing his death, and the very intensity, passion and clarity of the poem reflects this.

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