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Ode to Autumn
Transcript of Ode to Autumn
What inspires you?
What are you passionate about?
In a letter written to Reynolds from Winchester, in September, 1819, Keats says: 'How beautiful the season is now--How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather--Dian skies--I never liked stubble-fields so much as now--Aye better than the chilly green of the spring. Somehow, a stubble-field looks warm--in the same way that some pictures look warm. This struck me so much in my Sunday's walk that I composed upon it.' What he composed was the Ode To Autumn.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'erbrimmed their clammy cells.
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
So what's it all about then?
This is a Romantic ode in which Keats has captured the mood, beauty and essence of Autumn
How did he do it?
He has given Autumn human qualities - personification
He uses the sights and sounds of the season to create stunning sensual (appealing to the senses) images of Autumn in the poem - alliteration and assonance
In the first line Keats already awakens our senses to the sounds, tastes and colours of Autumn
The alliteration of the 's' and the 'm' sounds creates an auditory image of pleasure and ripe, mouth-watering good fruit
The alliteration continues throughout the stanza - can you find more examples? What is the effect of the alliteration?
Autumn is personified as a friend of the sun and these two friends work together to create the most delicious fruit
The idea of fullness and fulfillment is developed in the words 'budding' 'swell' and 'plump'
In the first stanza, Keats concentrates on the sights of autumn, ripening grapes and apples, swelling gourds and hazel nuts, and blooming flowers
Mood and tone
The mood is joyful and mellow in the first two stanzas, yet turns almost melancholy in the last stanza. Can you find words to support this?
What does the change in mood imply or indicate about the season?
In the second stanza, the emphasis is on the characteristic activities of autumn, threshing, reaping, gleaning, and cider making.
Autumn is being personified several times:
Autumn is a woman, sitting in a granary, whose hair is gently lifted by the wind. This is a striking image of the chaff being separated from the wheat
Next, Autumn becomes a reaper, drowsy from the smell of poppies, resting from her labour of harvesting
The last 'human' figure that Autumn becomes is the gleaner.
However, it is also a metaphor as the image is that of a willow tree over a brook, which looks just like a gleaner bent over the wheat, with her hair falling forward over her face
The stanza comes to a leisurely end with a person watching the apple juice ooze out of the cider press. The rhythm slows down considerably with the words 'last oozings hours by hours' - you cannot say this quickly!
In the concluding stanza, the poet puts the emphasis on the sounds of autumn, produced by insects, animals, and birds. To his ears, this music is just as sweet as the music of spring. How does Keats help us to 'hear' these sounds?
The last stanza also describes the end of Autumn as the fields have now been harvested and all the work is done. The earth, as well as the farmers will enter a period of rest in the cold winter months.
The ending of the poem is artistically made to correspond with the ending of a day: "And gathering swallows twitter in the skies." How would you describe the tone now? Is it still the same as in stanza 1? Why?
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;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;