“To Autumn”
John Keats

I.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

II.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, 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;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

III.
Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

How is this poem an example of Romanticism? (Answer is well developed paragraphs with specific examples.)
Romantics rebelled against logic and reason and found refuge in emotion, intuition and nature. Nature is thought to be a set of symbols from which we can learn things that can be applied to our life. In "To Autumn" the whole poem centres around the natural entity 'autumn' and uses frequent nature imagery in order to convey its message. The lines "To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,/And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;/To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells" have these vivid descriptions of fruits being filled with life, showing in the beginning of autumn it is bursting with life. This can be thus be decoded into how most things start out bursting with energy and vibrancy.

In these lines:

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Keats uses the animals in nature to set the tone and describe how their songs are a mournful celebration of the passing of autumn. The "lambs loud bleat" the "Hedge-crickets sing" and "The red-breast whistles" are all natural sounds that are interpreted into this mourning of autumn. The poem is an example of romanticism because it uses these natural symbols to convey an feeling about autumn, fitting in with the Romantic ideas of using nature and intuition as a textbook for our lives.

How is this poem an example of an ode and lyric poem? (Answer in a bulleted list.)
  • 1 speaker
  • Glorifies Autumn.
  • Develops the subject in a surprising way - autumn is usually seen as a prelude to winter and the falling of leaves, but in this case it is a celebration of autumn as a time of life.
  • Is divided into stanza's and uses stylized language.
  • Describes a scene of nature.

What have you learned about Keats that helps you understand this poem in a new way? (Be sure to use the school's databases and cite your information. Answers need to be in well-developed paragraphs.)

In “To Autumn” the most significant parts of Keats life that impact this poem is his awareness of his own mortality. Keats’ father died at when he was only 8, while Keats himself had to watch his mother and brother succumb to tuberculosis. Keats would then discover that he himself had tuberculosis. This information allows us to be able to interpret this poem in a whole new light, as we can now look at autumn as a symbol for life. Keats knew he was in the “autumn” of his life as he was going to die quite soon, and it is quite possible that the beauty he saw in autumn was a way for him to deal with his impending death.

The focus in the last stanza of the mourning and celebration of autumn also mirrors Keats obsession with his legacy. The lines “Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?/Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,” show an awareness of how autumn wants to be remembered, just like he Keats wants to be remembered. When Keats died his wish was to have the words "Here lies one whose name was writ in water." In requesting these words Keats reveals how he was probably afraid that his works would be forgotten and he would leave nothing behind.

Bloom, Harold. "Biography of John Keats." Bloom's Major Poets: John Keats (Jan. 2001): 11-15. Literary Reference Center. EBSCO. [Library name], [City], [State abbreviation]. 9 Sep. 2008 <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=16524946&site=lrc-live>.

What are some of the purposes of this poem? Why did Keats write it in the first place? (Answers should be in bulleted lists, allowing others to "run" with their own ideas.)
  • Most obviously as a way to celebrate the life and vitality autumn has, how its not all rain and dead leaves
  • Perhaps as a symbol for "the autumn of one's life" -> Keat's himself knew that he was going to die
  • The beauty that happens before death
  • The progression of time - the single season autumn can be expanded to represent our life as it starts bountiful and energetic from summer; before slowing down in the middle of life while being productive and finally fading out in a chorus of music.