Analysis and commentary of To Autumn by John Keats
In ‘To Autumn’, a superficial reading would suggest that John Keats writes about a typical day of this season, describing all kind of colourful and detailed images. But before commenting on the meaning of the poem, I will briefly talk about its structure, its type and its rhyme.
The poem is an ode that contains three stanzas, and each of these has eleven lines. With respect to its rhyme, ‘To Autumn’ does not follow a perfect pattern. While the first stanza has an ABABCDEDCCE pattern (see the poem on the next page), the second and the third ones have an ABABCDECDDE pattern. However, it is important to say that a poetic license appears in the third stanza. The word ‘wind’ (line 15) is pronounced [waind] to rhyme with ‘find’.
With regard to the meaning of the poem, as I said above, the author makes an intense description of autumn at least at first sight. The first stanza begins showing this season as misty and fruitful, which, with the help of a ‘maturing sun’, ripens the fruit of the vines. Next, we can see clearly a hyperbole. Keats writes that a tree has so many apples that it bends (line 5), while the gourds swell and the hazel shells plumps. Finally, Keats suggests that the bees have a large amount of flowers. And these flowers did not bud in summer but now, in autumn. As a consequence, the bees are incessantly working and their honeycombs are overflowing since summer.
In the second stanza, there is an evident personification. The poet starts asking a rhetoric question (line 12) to autumn which now is not only a woman but a gleaner. However, this woman is apparently resting in a granary or in the landscape:
‘Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies…’
As she is not working with her hook, some flowers, that were going to be cut, remain untouchable (lines 17 and 18). Also we can see an image of her hair gently moving. The stanza ends with autumn patiently watching the ‘last oozings’ of cider.
The third stanza continues again with rhetoric questions. In the first one Keats asks the woman where the sounds of the spring are. And the second one is just a repetition of the same question. However, the poet tells autumn that she has her own sounds, although some of them are sad:
‘Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn’
On the contrary, the ‘full-grown lambs’ bleat loudly, the crickets sing, a red-breast whistles, and swallows warble in the sky. Keats also describes a day that is dying, ending, and, as a consequence, is getting rose (lines 25 and 26). The last lines of this stanza consist of a combination of the autumn sounds, of the animal sounds (lines from 30 to 33) as I said before few lines above.
To conclude, although my first impression was that John Keats was simply describing the main characteristics of autumn, and the human and animal activities related to it, a deeper reading could suggest that Keats talks about the process of life. Autumn symbolises maturity in human and animal lives. Some instances of this are the ‘full-grown lambs’, the sorrow of the gnats, the wind that lives and dies, and the day that is dying and getting dark. As all we know, the next season is winter, a part of the year that represents aging and death, in other words, the end of life. However, in my opinion, death does not have a negative connotation because Keats enjoys and accepts ‘autumn’ or maturity as part of life, though winter is coming.
Erika Giselle Wilson Cantariño
Keats, John. “To Autumn”.
 An ode is a type of poem that expresses noble feelings to a person, a place or a thing. (http://www.poetrycreation.com/typesofpoetry1.html)
 “A figure of speech in which deliberate exaggeration is used for emphasis” (http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0903237.html)
 “A figure of speech in which things or abstract ideas are given human attributes” (http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0903237.html)