AD's English Literature : John Keats' Ode To Autumn- All for Autumnal Beauty

John Keats' Ode To Autumn- All for Autumnal Beauty



Three things help to make the great lyric. These are- the author's feeling, or emotion; the theme; the form and style in which the author expresses both of these. Farther sincerity, intensity, and spontaneity characterize the feeling of the great lyric poem. Such an ode is typically a lyrical verse written in praise of, or dedicated to someone or something which captures the poet's interest or serves as an inspiration for the ode. The structure and rhyme scheme of Ode To Autumn are similar to those of typical odes. It is remarkable for its richness of imagery. It is a feast of sights and sounds. It shows Keats's speaker paying homage to a particular goddess-- the deified season of autumn. Autumn in Keats's ode is a time of warmth and plenty, but it is perched on the brink of winter's desolation.

Casually speaking, Keats was not a thinker; his poetry is not a vehicle for ideas, but a record of acutely felt sensations. It is sometimes affirmed that his messages are contained in his enigmatic lines of verses. Thus his Ode To Autumn is his sojourn at emotions and feelings for autumnal beauty.  
                                                         
  The poem has three stanzas, each of eleven lines (ababcdecdde), that describe the tastes, sights, and sounds of autumn. Much of the third stanza, however,   describes the end of the day and the end of autumn. Ode To Autumn includes an emphasis on images of motion, growth, and maturation.                                                                                                                                            
The first stanza of the poem describes natural processes, unlike the following which deal more with sensual observations, as it presents a harvest in its final stages.The Stanza provides a union of maturation and growth, two oppositional forces within the work, and this union instills an idea within nature that the season will not end.The plants and fruits which were born in spring attain maturity in autumn with the fullness of mists and mellow fruitfulness. The rays of the maturing sun help the fruit ripen. The poet imagines that autumn and the sun act together to supply the vines with grapes round the thatch-eves. The moss'd cottage-trees bend over the load of apples red with ripeness to the core. The same is the case with the gourd, the hazel shells or other fruits. In autumn when the late flowers are still in bloom, the bees go on collecting honey in spite of the fact that during summer they had collected enough honey. They mistake autumn for summer and think that the summer will never end while their cells are overflowed with honey:
“…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.”

 Here in the second stanza, Keats has presented autumn in its four striking aspects of the seasonal activities personified as country peasants. First, autumn is seen as the harvester, seated careless on the granary floor with the gentle winnowing wind playing with her hair:
“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;”
 Secondly, autumn is personified as a tired reaper who falls asleep drugged by the fragrance of poppy:
“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:”
Thirdly, autumn is imagined as a gleaner on her way home across a brook with load of corns on her head: 
 “And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
      Steady thy laden head across a brook;”
Fourthly, autumn is seen as a cider-presser who, seated beside a vat, watches the apple-juice oozing out:
“ Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
          Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.”

In the final stanza of the poem the poet reaches the understanding that with the attainment of maturity of everything in nature, the resourcefulness in nature is on the verge of giving way to bareness and scarcity of the winter. So nature is visibly taking the shape towards the direction. This makes the poet mourn while comparing the vitality and vibrancy of spring with those of autumn. But he is also conscious of the fact that autumn has its own beauty and music. The numerous sounds produced by the gnats, swallows, lambs, crickets and Robin Red Breast collectively produce the autumnal symphony:
“ Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
      Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—“
The insects and animals instinctively understand this and that is why the sounds made by them are marked by apprehension and sadness. The migratory swallows twitter in the skies and telling it plain that winter is heralding in near future.

As it is already told, the poet Keats is a Romantic creator. His powerful autumnal imagination constructs lively scene and character and situation. His intense faculty of observation gives to this vividness of Natural beauty. His tendency to reflect, to look within the confines of his own heart, gives moral weight- A compact relation between man and nature. His downright sincerity rings true. His intense emotional power is a flashlight upon the picture of life. Add to these qualities human interest and he gives to the poem a strength that makes for permanency. Despite of being the whole poem fantastic, the great thing about first and last stanza is that we can still see these things all around us every autumn. The second stanza is just a romantic vision of the glorious autumn.


References: Arnold: Essay in Criticism
                     Coleridge: Biographia Literaria
                      'Encyclopaedia Britannica: Article on Poetry

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