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Published: 30-09-2019

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The Elegance and Beautiful Autumn Season

Of John Keats’ “Great Odes,” “To Autumn” is a poem which rests on a precipice. In other words, autumn lies straight between the life breath of spring and summer and the impending death of winter. Considerably to his advantage, Keats knowingly embraces autumn’s ambivalent nature in order to perpetuate the middle season’s personal distinctive beauty. The outcome is an ode completely dictated by adverse capability, in which the widespread human context of autumn is transformed and reviewed in a new light. “To Autumn,” filled with each vivacious nature poetry and subtle nods in death’s direction, steadily affirms the paradoxical beauty of the season by means of stark contrast and steady adjust.

In the initial stanza, Keats establishes autumn’s lively benevolence via conventional pastoral imagery, basking in autumn’s far more standard beauty with only slight references to the cold ahead or warmth prior. Right here, abundance and excess are both prevalent themes. With summer time only not too long ago departed, the speaker flushes with autumn’s blessings of “swelling” gourds, “plump” hazel shells, and cottage-trees that bend from the bounteous weight of apples. “And still more,” the speaker continues, “later flowers for the bees, / Until they feel warm days will by no means cease” (ll. 9-10).

Right here, Keats lets slip the very first hint of comparison upon autumn’s beauty. Summer’s legacy, represented by the late “maturing sun,” is the driving force of life with autumn acting as its conductor. In reality, their collaborative efforts are so pronounced that the bees feel not of colder weather, the end to a seemingly endless bounty. Nonetheless, this surmise regarding summer’s end is hugely ominous. Although the thoughts of bees with honey combs “o’er-brimm’d” appears innocuous adequate, the speaker is in fact laying the foundation for a great adjust. The fruit of the land is filled with “ripeness to the core,” indicative of both summer’s triumphant conclusion and autumn’s own commencement—the harvest. Summer season and autumn’s literal fruition, whilst lively in its own appropriate, is the impetus for autumn’s own inverted bloom.

The transitory second stanza is marked by the harvest and a personified autumn encumbered by the “oozing” advance of time and death rather than the labors of nature. Now, autumn who was as soon as referred to as the regal “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” in the introductory apostrophe is now listless: “sitting careless on a granary floor.” The speaker recounts, “Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep, / Drows’d with the fume of poppies, even though thy hook / Spares the subsequent swath and all its twined flowers” (ll. 16-18). Previously a divine champion of bounty and life, autumn now finds itself in a delicate, humanized stupor. The bed of flowers, noticeably “half-reap’d,” portrays the harvest as one more symbol of autumn’s ambivalence, half-way between life and death. Meanwhile, time’s slow, ceaseless procession is encapsulated well by autumn’s serene slumber induced by “poppies,” nature’s literal opiate. These pictures are incredibly striking despite their blurry, languid nature due to their divergence from the sweet festivities of the first stanza. Vines riddled with generate have been replaced with autumn half-reaping and half-sparing the fruits of two seasons’ labor. Now, the season assumes the figure of the reaper with “hook” gliding previous each swath toward autumn’s final trimester.

Ultimately, the third stanza, a literal and figurative sunset on autumn’s reign, characteristics the speaker blending the elements of life and death and at final confiding in autumn its correct beauty. It begins, “Where are the songs of spring? Ay, exactly where are they?” (l. 23). Nearing autumn’s close, the speaker bemoans the loss of “songs,” or beauties, of spring Keats even employs ubi sunt as if to indicate the fruition of a full emotional—or seasonal—transformation. Clearly, springtime has extended left this world: “barred clouds” have taken the place of the when “maturing sun” and the harvest is deep into the previous. However, the speaker swiftly expounds on autumn’s beauty, “Think not of them, thou hast thy music too” (l. 24). In tender and genuine tone does the speaker reassure autumn of its worth, walking a fine line of life and death. The sun falls low, casting off the “soft-dying day,” and a “wailful choir” of gnats harmoniously mourn the climax of autumn. All at after it appears, the design of nature starts to betray and contradict itself. Rosy skies contest to the glorious, “soft-dying” transition from day to evening, and the buzzing gnats incite the complete chorus of autumn’s personal songs. Oxymoronic “full-grown lambs” bleat just before the shepherd or the slaughterhouse whilst crickets and robins “sing” and “whistle” respectively, reciprocating the speaker’s reassured peace. Here, nature appears to be untangling its own organic contradictions and juxtapositions and hence enables autumn to assert its personal capability to be stunning regardless of the lapse of spring and summer season or the oncoming wintertime. Then, as if to relinquish any doubt, the speaker concludes, “And gathering swallows twitter in the skies” (l. 33). The birds, eager to resume along the procession of time and season, soar up and “twitter” the last refrain in autumn’s song shortly before flying south for the winter.

From onset to its conclusion, “To Autumn” is strung about by time and alter. The apples which hung from the cottage-trees at sunrise are plucked and then juiced by the cyder-press at midday. The “winnowing wind” tossing autumn’s soft hair “lives or dies” among the river sallows. Certainly, autumn is capable of attaining beauty since unfavorable capability makes it possible for the speaker to seek beauty out in the least likely of areas. In this case, beauty lies on the boundary of life and death, each individually beautified even though forever conscious of their polar opposite. To Keats, autumn is nature’s main example of the coalescence of life and death.
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