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Good morning, my name is Priyanshi Rawat and I will be discussing the poem “To Autumn” by John Keats. The areas that I will be focusing on by the end of my analysis is that how Keats managed to embody complex themes in such a simple poem and comment upon his usage of imagery and language. The poet’s influences were based on the themes of the transience of life, death, love and the cycles of life. The poems he composes are therefore highly emotional and exhibits a tremendous amount of his thoughts and feelings. Similarly to this one John Keats gives a clear and vivid description of the three stages of the seasons: growth, harvest and death. The poem was written during the French Revolution and the same year when his only brother died, where Keats is giving the audience a glimpse of how good days are like and what freedom feels like. I will be analysing the theme and context, tone and mood, audience and purpose and style and structure. 

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As we move towards the poem, it is properly arranged consisting of three stanzas, each with eleven lines, through which Keats is successfully able to build up several themes such as appearance vs reality, time, mortality. In the entire poem Keats is able to prove to importance and the positive lookout of the season autumn with words such as “mists”, “mellow fruitfulness” and “ripeness”, which is often recognised as gloomy and dark. This represents the theme of appearance vs reality as autumn is portrayed as an insignificant season whereas Keats highlights the importance of it by making it a reason of life existence. This is evident as he refers to “bees” in the first stanza, who generally pollinates during the autumn season and also it reflects upon the cycle of loss and regeneration of the dead leaves and branches on the ground that then disintegrate and turn into part of the soil, resulting in fertilisers which help in plant growth.

Moreover, as this an ode, it has helped Keats to emerge his beautiful use of language as an ode can be structured into three sections: strophe, antistrophe and epode. There are plentiful imageries in the fist stanza which successfully represents growth, richness and weight. He uses personification to show the harmonic and strong relationship between the season and “maturing sun”. The word “conspiring” is used which holds negative
connotations yet Autumn and the Sun intend to ‘load and bless’ which signifies the image of weight inside the “fruit with ripeness”. Also “conspiring” implies it is a secretive process beyond mere mans control. Autumn is presents as a strong reproductive force and Keats uses words such as “bless”, “load”and “swell” to emphasise the action of the season. This is like to neglect the general belief that autumn is a time of dying as the leaves turn brown and winter is prepared for. Keats wants his audience to appreciate the other aspects of the Autumn. This image highlights fullness and extent of the produce.

Further we see Keats contrasting the nature but also noticing the beauty in all of them so he again spots his stance with a rhetorical question and thinking about sound of spring which resonates throughout the second stanza. The first image is of autumn sitting “careless” on a granny floor. The figure is not idle but free of worry as there are little movement in these lines, thus creates a relaxing mood. Keats’s diction in “soft-lifted”, “Drows’d”, “fume of poppies” gives the audience a fresh and intoxicating effect of autumn with no sense of urgency and panic in surrounding. However this stanza is a juxtaposition to the previous one as here the poet talks about the harvesting time and soon the life cycle of the plants will reach its death point. This supported by “oozing hours by hours” as it foreshadows the end of autumn as winter approaches. Moreover, the line “Drowsed with the fume of poppies” contains long vowels which generates a soothing and drowsy atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the theme of time, though with less context but with deeper meaning is portrayed by Keats in the second stanza. As he uses words such as “patient look”, “sound asleep”, “oozing hours by hours” which prolongs sense of time highlighting autumn as serene and laid-back. Lastly, Autumn is being personified and represented as a reaper, the Grim Reaper, this can be seen throughout the poem. 

The day, like the season, is dying as presented by “soft-dying”. Here the poet portrays the theme of death as one of beauty and does not hold any gloomy connotations. The setting sun casts a “bloom” of “rosy hue” over the harvested fields and I think that Keats is familiar with all the detail of autumn aspect as he creates such deeper meaning with the natural beauty. He even includes sadness: the gnats “mourn” in “wilful choir” and the doomed lamb bleat. (which is also negative animal imagery). It is a “light: or enjoyable wind that “lives or dies”. here, Keats blends living and dying, the pleasant and the unpleasant, like yin and yang to keep each other in balance.