To Autumn by John Keats
Summary of “To Autumn”
In September 1819 Keats wrote to John Hamilton Reynolds from Winchester:
“How beautiful the season is now-how fine the air-a temperate sharpness about it!”
Keats was struck by the beauty of the season so much that he composed upon it. The poem is composed of three stanzas which show a gradual rise of thought. In the opening stanza, autumn is seen as the season itself bringing all the fruits like grapes, apples, hazelnuts and gourds to ripeness. In the second, autumn is personified as a woman who is present at the various activities of the harvest like threshing, harvesting, gleaning and cider-making activities. In the last stanza, autumn is associated with the sunset. The songs of spring are over but autumn has its music too.The poet places the focus on the music of autumn created by insects, animals and birds. The music is just as sweet to his ears as spring music.
Analysis of To Autumn
Keats’ form of writing the poem is to stack up imagery typical of autumn. His autumn is early autumn when all the things of nature have peaked to a state of full maturity. Autumn is personified and is interpreted in a state of activity.
In the first stanza, autumn is a pleasant conspirator working with the sun to bring fruit to a state of complete maturity and perfection. Keats focuses on the autumn sights, ripening grapes and apples, growing gourds and hazelnuts and blossoming flowers.
In the second stanza, autumn is a thresher sitting on a granary floor, a reaper sleeping in a grain field, a gleaner going through a brook, and, eventually, a cidermaker. The focus is on the characteristics of autumn like threshing, harvesting, gleaning and cider-making activities.
In the concluding stanza, autumn is seen as a musician and the music created in the autumn is as good as spring music – the sounds of gnats, lambs, crickets, robins, and swallows. The poet places the focus on the music of autumn created by insects, animals and birds. The music is just as sweet to his ears as spring music.
The ending of the poem is artistically made to correspond with the ending of a day: “And gathering swallows twittering in the skies.” In the evening, swallows gather in flocks prepare to return to their nests for the night.
“To Autumn” is sometimes called an ode, but it is not what Keats calls it. However, its structure and rhyme scheme are close to those of his spring odes of 1819 and like them, it is remarkable for its abundance of imagery. It is a feast of sights and sounds.
It was presented in a number of different ways over the years, the most recent being a radical reading of the poem by a popular Marxist poet. This article discusses all the different alternatives, from literal to allegorical, concentrating on rhyme, meter (in the USA), grammar, allusion and vocabulary.
It is suffice to say that the poem has maintained its status as a masterpiece of form and content, amid these alternative approaches, and elicits a positive reaction wherever it is read.
John Keats wrote in a letter to a friend, Leigh Hunt: ‘We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us…Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters one’s soul.’
Keats would be pleased to know that much of his poetry is still considered great literature, and even influences the post-modern mind and soul. But the question must be asked – can a poem written by a leading poet be completely immune to the financial, political, and cultural environment in which it was born at the time?
Keats was undoubtedly mindful of social and political upheavals his time including the notorious massacre of labor protestors in the summer of 1819 at the Battle of Peterloo in Manchester. He had progressive leanings but preferred not to show them in his poetry.
Read Also: Analysis of To Autumn
To Autumn by John Keats Questions Answers
Q.1 Prove that ‘To Autumn’ is a song of ripeness?
The poem ode ‘To Autumn’ has been written by the master of word pictures, John Keats. This poem is remarkable for its appeal to the sense, its work pictures and imagery. The poet presents the season of Autumn as a season of mist and mellow fruitfulness. It is a song of ripeness and abundance. The poet says that autumn brings fresh and juicy fruits in abundance. It along with its close friend sun plans to load the cottage trees with abundant fruits. The warmth of the sun ripens the fruit and fills sweetness to their core. All the fruit and flowers grow in such a large quality that the branches of the trees bend down by weight. The poet says that ripeness reaches to its maximum in this season.
Q.2 What are the two friends Autumn and warm sun?
Ans. The poet ‘John Keats’ presents a sensuous picture of autumn in this poem. He calls autumn a close friend of the warming sun. The poet says that both the friends plan to load and bless the trees with fresh and fruity juice. There are grapevines and old apple trees around the cottages in the field. Autumn and the warm sun conspire to bless the trees with abundant fruits which bend their branches. Both the friends fill sweet her to the core of fruits. The fruits become juicy and sweet. Autumn and the sun bring gourd, hazel fruit and abundant flowers. They set the budding so much that the bees think that warm day will never come to an and. Their beehives get over brimmed with sweet honey.
Q.3 What are the four images of personification?
Ans. The poet John Keats has personified the season of autumn in this ode. He presents vivid images of autumn in this poem. Autumn has been picturized in four different images viz harvester, reaper, gleaner and cider-maker. The poet sees autumn as a harvester who is sitting careless on a granary floor and his hair is gently lifted by the winnowing wind. In the next image, autumn is seen as a reaper ( crop cutter ) who gets tired after cutting half of the crop strip and sits at the furrow. The fume of poppies makes him intoxicated and he falls asleep. Then Autumn is shown as a gleaner who carries the bundle of corn on his head and crosses the brook carefully on his way back to his cottage. Lastly, the poet sees the autumn as a cider maker who is standing by a cider press and watches the last drops of juice being extracted from fruits. The poet beautifully creates the pen pictures of autumn in four different images.
Q. 4 “Thou………too” what objects does the poet find Autumn’s music in?
Ans. The poet presents autumn as a symphony of sound saying that not only spring but autumn has its own music. He says that it is not the time to think about the songs of spring because autumn is served by its own music by various objects of nature. He says that when it gets dark, the small gnats sing in a painful chorus along the riverside. There are willow trees on the bank of the river which sway as the light breeze lives or dies. The music of autumn is audible when the trees sway and the small gnats sing. The poet listens to the music of autumn in the loud bleat of lambs from the hilly bourn. The sound of autumn is audible in the singing of hedge crickets. A robin bird sitting on the fence of a garden produces its trembling voice and the swallow birds flying in the sky twitter which make the music of autumn. The poet says that all these objects of nature produce the music of autumn.
Q.5 Keats is a master of word pictures. Explain some of the word – pictures from the poem.
Ans. The poem to autumn is the last of ‘John Keats’ five great odes. This poem is a great example of word picture and imagery. Keats is known as the master of word pictures. In this ode, he presents beautiful images of the season of Autumn. He presents autumn as a season of mist and mellow fruitfulness. The projection and cottages with vines and old apple trees around them create beautiful pictures in the readers’ mind. The poet shows various colours of autumn which appeal to our eyes. The second stanza depicts four images of autumn as a harvester, reaper gleaner and cider maker. The poet imagines autumn doing rest or some work in these forms. Then Keats describes a beautiful evening of autumn which creates lovely pictures and appeal to the sense of perception. This poem truly establishes Keats as the master of word pictures.
Q.6 What is an ode? Compare ‘To Autumn’ with ‘Our Casuarina Tree”.
Ans. An ode is a song of admiration in which the poet expresses his emotions towards the subject matter of the poem. An ode is always an address to some noble thought, idea or diety. It is a serious, noble and dignified form of lyrical composition in a regular stanza form. It is always elated in tone and refined in language and style.
The poem ‘Our Casuarina Tree’ by Toru Dutt and ode ‘To Autumn’ by John Keats are good examples of this form of poetry. Although both the poems are odes, get they carry certain difference. The poem by Toru Dutt is not a pure ode. In fact, it is a combination of an ode and an elegy. The poetess admires the casuarinas tree because of her brother and sister who are no more in the world. There is a personal affinity of the poetess towards the casuarina tree. On the other hand ode ‘To Autumn’ Expresses true admiration of John Keats towards the season of Autumn. The tone here is somewhat more elated and dignified. The poet admires the season and presents it as a season of fresh and juicy fruits, flowers for the bees and success for the farmers.
Short Answer Questions
Q.1 What Autumn Plan to do with the cottage trees?
Ans. In this poem, the poet John Keats considers the season of Autumn as a season of mist and mellow fruitfulness. He personifies Autumn and says that it brings fresh and juicy fruits in abundance. Autumn plans to load and bless the grapevines around the cottages with juicy fruits. It bends the old apple trees with abundant apples. It also fills ripeness and sweetness to the core of these fruits.
Q.2 Why does Autumn intended to ‘set budding’ the late summer flowers?
Ans. Autumn is a season of ripeness and abundance. The Season intends to set budding more and more which latter becomes flowers for the bees. The flowers bloom in such a great abundance that the bees think those warm days will never to an end. The bees suck the nectar of flowers to make honey. Their heaves are over brimmed of honey and get the flowers to keep coming endlessly.
Q.3 How are the honeycombs after the summer?
Ans. Autumn and the sun intend to set budding more and more which later becomes flowers with the arrival of summer days. The bees suck the nectar of these flowers to make honey. The flowers keep blooming in such a large quantity that the honeycombs get over brimmed with sweet honey. The bees get tired of collecting juice of flowers and make honey. They feel that the summer days will never come to an end.
Q. 4 How can Autumn be seen as a harvester?
Ans. The poet has personified Autumn in this poem. He sees Autumn as a harvester. The poet says that Autumn as a harvester is sitting careless on a granary floor. He has done his work and feels quite relaxed. His mind is without any worry and there is a look of contentment aver his face. The winnowing wind gently lifts his hair.
Q.5 How does the poet describe the crop culture?
Ans. The second image of Autumn seen in the poem is of a crop culture. The crop cutter reaps the strip of crop and does all the hard word. He gets tired after cutting half of the strip and sits on the furrow to take some rest. The gentle breeze & fume of poppies make him intoxicated and he feels sleepy. He fats asleep while his hook is kept there. He has still to cut the next swath.
Q.6 What is cider maker doing?
Ans. The last image of personification of the autumn season is the eider maker. The poet describes the eider maker standing by the cider press. There is a patient look on his face as he watches the last drops of juice being extracted from fruits. He is satisfied that his hard work has born a success.
Q.7 Describe the scene of the earth at sunset.
Ans. The poem ode ‘To Autumn’ by John Keats is rich in pictorial quality. The poet describes the scene of the earth at sunset. He says that a day of autumn gently comes to an end as the sun swiftly moves to the horizon. There are barred clouds in the sky everywhere. The twilight colours of the sun touch the stubble plains in the bare cornfields. The poet feels a little sad at this moment.
Q. 8 Where do the small gnats sing from and how does?
After the sun sets and darkness spreads all over, the poet listens to the music of Autumn. He says that the small gnats along the riverside sing in chorus in their wailing voice. When the wind lives or dies and the willow trees sway, the poet can listen to the music of Autumn. This music is clearly Audible and reaches the poet.
Q. 9 Do you find a reminder ……… become happy?
Ans. The poet feels sad when the day of Autumn comes to an end. He expresses his sadness in the wailing choir of the small gnats. But then he realises that all the good things come to an end at some time & So the day of Autumn has reached its destination. Later on, he overcomes the sad moment and becomes happy because he realises the wealth of nature and expresses his faith in this philosophy. He feels contented hearing the music of Autumn.
Q. How does the poet address Autumn?
Ans. The poet John Keats address Autumn in this poem and considers it a season of mist and mellow fruitfulness. He says that Autumn is the close friend of warming sun and plans to load and Ideas the trees with sweet and juicy fruits. It is the season which bears abundant Fruits and flowers. It is the season of joy and contentment for all special farmers. The Poet personifies the season and presents it as a harvester, reaper, gleaner, and cidermaker.