Ode to Autumn by John Keats summary

John Keats wrote Ode to Autumn in September 1819. John Keats depicts the various qualities of autumn and its development through time in this poem, “Ode to Autumn.” Keats employed rich imagery throughout the poem to stimulate the reader’s attention as well as appeal to the sensations of sight and taste. Ode to Autumn is a unique way of appreciating autumn. We’re all acquainted with Thomas Hardy’s portrayal of autumn as dark, chill, and lonely, as well as the terrible sensation of growing old and approaching death. Keats, on the other hand, perceives the opposite side of the coin. He sees autumn as:  “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness/close bosom friend of the maturing sun”.

The poem is divided into three eleven-line stanzas, each portraying one of the three main stages of Autumn: growth, harvesting, and the final days before winter. The poem is full with descriptions of autumn’s richness, its smells and sounds.

First stanza:

Keats paints a spectacular image of Autumn in the poem’s very first stanza. It’s a time of ‘mellow-fruitfulness,’ according to him, when all the fruits have matured and ripened. Autumn’s collaboration with the sun gives a variety of fruits on the ground, making all of them ripe to the core. The hazelnuts have a delicious kernel within. There are plenty of flowers for the bees to draw the nectar from. It appears to be a prolongation of summer to the bees, since their sticky cells are overflowing with honey. 

Second Stanza:

Keats has brilliantly embodied Autumn with a woman under four images in the second stanza. To begin with,  as a harvester who sat lazily on the granary floor while winnowing. Second, as if a fatigued reaper had slept off in the middle of harvesting. Then as a gleaner, walking home with a bundle of sheaves on his head across a stream in the dusk. Finally, as a cider-presser, seeing the juice trickle out, drop by drop.

Third stanza:

The poet regrets the disappearance of spring’s sounds in the last stanza, but confesses to autumn that her song is also lovely. This stanza stresses the late-autumn noises that foreshadow the impending winter. The swallows have gathered in preparation for their journey. Their twittering is like a church bell ringing to signal the end of the day.

The three stanzas of the poem are likewise organized according to the hours of the day: morning, noon, and evening. They’re also grouped in a life’s structure: birth, growth, and death.

The subject-matter of the poem:

At one level, the subject-matter of “Ode to Autumn” is reality itself: The autumn season is depicted by Keats, who claims that its particular song and function in completing the cycle of seasons makes it a part of the whole. Autumn will be accompanied by a harsh and dry winter, but winter will be followed by a new spring. Life must continue, yet it cannot do so without death, which ends one life and begins another.

Ode to Autumn stands out among Keats’ six magnificent Odes because it is the most flawless of his Odes in terms of execution. In Ode to Autumn, reflects his sheer adoration of nature, devoid of any sense of reflection or ethical significance. Keats has succeeded in capturing the beauty, the appeal, the symphony of autumn, and the timeless human activities in the heart of nature despite the poem’s short length.

Theme and Technique:

Keats employs the technique of personification to lend Autumn human dimensions. Of course, the most famous line from the poem is when Autumn is described as the “close bosom-friend of the maturing sun.” Autumn is frequently shown as “collaborating” with the sun in order to create a plentiful crop. As a result, the sun is indirectly personified (in that it is both a “friend” and a “conspirer”). Autumn is also characterized as “sitting carelessly” and with “soft-lifted hair” when she is drowsy. Keats has brilliantly embodied Autumn in the second stanza with a lady under four images: harvester, gleaner, fatigued reaper, and cider-presser.

The prevalent mood in “Ode to Autumn” is that of the blending of pleasure and sorrow. The idea of this poem is that joy can only be experienced in the context of despair. Life can only be realized to its greatest potential if death is there at its very conception. Because life and dying, the lovely and the horrible, are inexorably linked, Keats acknowledges the reality of the world’s dual character.

Imagery in “Ode to Autumn”:

The imagery of “Ode to Autumn” is rich, stirring the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Each stanza focuses on a different sensation. The sensations of scent and touch are evoked in the opening stanza. The strong scent of early morning mist, the mellowness of ripened apples, and the sweet-smelling flowers that lure bees all conspire to persuade the reader that summer will never finish. Nothing in this stanza seems static; the fruit, nuts, and honeycombs grow, busting into maturity and pouring out of their shells.

In the second stanza, Keats accentuates the sensation of sight by seeing autumn as a harvester, her hair “soft-lifted by the winnowing wind,” inspecting, cutting, and gleaning the corps. The visuals generate a sense of sluggishness. Autumn goes leisurely about her shops, sleeping “drows’d by the fume of poppies” and quietly watching the “final oozings hours by hours.” Although the sun setting on the “stubble-plains” evokes visual splendor, the concluding stanza’s tone is determined by the sensation of sound.

The reader and autumn are persuaded that the springtime sounds have been replaced with a new, equally delightful melody. The gnats’ lamenting song, the full-grown lambs’ bleating, the red-whistling breast’s song, and the swallows’ twittering can all be heard as they gather for their summer migration. The unexpected symphony of sounds breaks the oppressive quietness of the second stanza, where all sounds were silenced in the daytime heat. As the day fades slowly to the sorrowful sound of the gnats, the music puts fall to a suitable end; the natural cycle has been fulfilled, and winter has arrived with a natural sweetness.

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