ODE TO AUTUMN John Keats This poem, an ode, is the last of Keats’ odes. In it, the poet exhibits a rich mood of serenity by describing autumn as a season of mellow fruitfulness – a season of ripeness and fulfillment. This ode is known for its remarkable sensuous beauty that is crafted by employment of several visual, tactile and auditory imageries together with the personification of autumn as a woman engaged in various autumnal activities. In the first stanza, the poet has described the bounty of autumn. It is the season of mists and the ripening of fruit. Autumn and the sun work together for the ripening of all kinds of fruits.
The vines running round the edges of the thatch and apple trees growing in the cottage garden are weighed down with fruits. Their fruits are ripening during autumn. Besides the gourds are becoming larger and the hazel nuts are being filled with sweet kernels. For the bees, it appears as if there is no end to their happy days – summer – as there are some later flowers still blooming in autumn, providing honey to them, even if their sticky combs are over-brimmed. The beautiful word pictures and various visual and tactile imageries make the stanza a well-crafted one.
In the second stanza, the poet moves from the country cottage to the outside field and describes various activities associated with autumn. He does it by employing personification that one almost visualizes these activities. It is the season of harvest and since most of the harvest works are performed by women, autumn is described as a woman. First, it is seen as a woman doing the work of winnowing. Secondly, one may see it as a reaper, asleep in the half-finished furrow of crops. Thirdly, it may be seen as a gleaner, keeping her corn-burdened head steady as she crosses a brook.
Finally, autumn may be seen as a woman standing patiently beside a cider-press for the last drops of apple juice. Unlike the first stanza where autumn was bustling with activities, Autumn is found static in suspended activity or arrested motion in the second stanza and the readers are invited to move from one scene to another in search of Autumn. In the final stanza, the poet appears to be overwhelmed by a pessimistic idea and asks about the sweet music of spring which is absent in autumn. However, he immediately rectifies himself and says there is nothing to worry about the songs of spring as autumn too has its own music.
He then lists the various sounds of autumn which are generally heard in the evening time. The mourning of the gnats, the loud bleating of the full-grown lambs, the singing of the hedge-crickets, the whistling of the red-breast and the twittering of the swallows are the prominent sounds that the poem deals with. Thus, the third stanza is about the music of autumn and the imagery is auditory. If in the first stanza, the positive side of autumn as the handmaid of summer is stressed, here the season is hailed as the prelude to winter.
The theme of the poem is a delighted, sensuous enjoyment of the rich and mature beauty of autumn season. The poet’s imaginative response to the beauty of autumn appears in a series of pictorial personifications of the season. The course of autumn traced in the poem is not restricted to autumn. The movement of the poem from fruition to harvest, from satisfaction to ending epitomizes the very process of life. Even sadness is seen in its true perspective as inseparable from and part and parcel of the complete process. The poem is an acceptance of the beauty and the pain in life, and an affirmation of its dignity. Thou hast thy music too’, is a relevant reminder that each one has his own talent and should attain contentment in life. Extracts: a) Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun Conspiring with him how to load and bless. i) Why does the poet address ‘autumn’ as the ‘season of mists and mellow fruit-fullness? Ans. The poet addresses ‘autumn’ as the season of mists as during this season, we can see mists on the open fields and on the other wet places in the mornings and evenings. He calls it a season of mellow fruitfulness because it’s during autumn that the fruits are in the process of ripening. i) How is ‘autumn’ a close bosom-friend of the maturing sun? Ans. Autumn is a close friend of the maturing sun as both of them together help the fruits to ripen to the core. iii) What do the close friends conspire? Ans. The two close friends, autumn and the sun conspire to load and bless the vines and apple trees with fruits, to swell the gourds, to plump the hazel shells with sweet kernels and to help bloom some more flowers. b) And still more, later flowers for the bees, Until they think warm days will never cease. i) What does the poet mean by the ‘later flowers’? Ans.
By the ‘later flowers’, the poet means to convey that flowering does not stop immediately after summer; in fact it continues though the number gets reduced. These are known as later flowers. ii) What makes the bees feel that warm days will never cease? Ans. The presence of later flowers and availability of honey for the bees makes them feel that the warm days shall never cease. iii) Describe the bee hives. Ans. The bees have collected a lot of honey during summer, yet the presence of the later flowers makes them collect more and add it to their collection which is now over-filled in their sticky cells. ) Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find Thee sitting careless on a granary floor, Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; i) Who or what is being talked of here? Ans. ‘Autumn’ is being talked of here. ii) What is the poetic device employed here and what is its effect? Ans. The poetic device employed here is personification as ‘autumn’ is being described as a woman engaged in various harvest related activities. iii) Why is she seen sitting carelessly on the granary floor? What activity was she involved in? Ans. She can be seen sitting carelessly on the granary floor as she was engaged in winnowing work, i. e. eparating the chaff from the corn and she is sitting carelessly because she is not worried as the harvest has been very good. It is picture of fulfillment or contentment. iv) Mention at least two more places she can be seen. Also mention in what condition she can be seen at these places. Ans. She can be seen in a sleeping posture, as she had been induced to sleep by the intoxicating smell of the poppies growing in the field along with the corn, in a half-reaped furrow while her sickle spares the next swath. She can also be seen as a gleaner, crossing a brook and keeping her head steady.
She can be seen sitting patiently at a cider-press and watching for the last drops of apple juice trickling down from the press. d) Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, — i) Who is being addressed here? Ans. Autumn is being addressed here. ii) This line is the answer to a question asked by the poet. What is the question? Ans. The question is: ‘Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they? iii) What is being referred to as ‘them’ here and why should the addressee not think of them? Ans. ‘The songs of spring’ is being referred to as ‘them’ here and the addressee, i. . autumn should not think of them as it is useless to think of the past. It’s rather wise to live in the present. Besides, autumn has its own music too. iv) Name a few sources of music associated with the addressee. Ans. The mourning of the gnats, the loud bleats of the full-grown lambs, the songs of the hedge-crickets, the whistles of the red-breast and the twittering of the swallows are the prominent sounds associated with the addressee, autumn. e) ‘Where are the songs of the 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… ’ i) Name the poet and the poem. Ans. The poet is ‘John Keats’ and the poem is ‘Ode to Autumn’. ii) Who is being referred to as ‘thou’? Ans. Autumn is being referred to as ‘thou’. iii) What does the poet mean when he says ‘songs of spring’? Ans. By the songs of spring the poet refers to the joy and exuberance of spring season. iv) What image is conjured up with ‘stubble plains’? Ans. The grain has been harvested and only the short, dry stalks remain like the stubble of hair on the face.