Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ode to Autumn by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, a
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; b
Conspiring with him how to load and bless a
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run; b
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, 5 c
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; d
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells e
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, d
And still more, later flowers for the bees, c
Until they think warm days will never cease; c 10
For Summer has o’erbrimm’d their clammy cells. e

Who hath not seen Thee oft amid thy store? a
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find b
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor, a
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; b 15
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep, c
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook d
Spares the next swath and all its twine´d flowers: e
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep c
Steady thy laden head across a brook; d 20
Or by a cider-press, with patient look, d
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours. e

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they? a
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, b
While barre´d clouds bloom the soft-dying day a 25
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue; b
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn c
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft d
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; e
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; c 30
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft d
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft; d
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies. e

This Ode follows the typical structure of the "dance rhythm" of moving left/Strophe, right/Antistrophe, and still/Epode. The rhyme scheme in the first stanza is ABABCDEDCCE, while the next two stanzas both follow ABABCDECDDE pattern. I think the slight change in rhyme scheme is to show more of the shift between the focus' of the first and second and third stanzas.

The first stanza is the Strophe, where Keats gives an in-depth description of the beauty of a typical autumn day "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 moss’d cottage-trees/And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core" This stanza is full of hyperboles of the exaggeration of nature in its blossoming stage, the vines that "bend with apples" and ripeness that "swell the gourd and plump the hazel shells."

In the second stanza/Antistrophe, Keats metaphorically relates autumn to a women "sitting carelessly on a granary floor." The almost sudden shift from description of an autumn day to the personification of it as a woman, could be relatable as a conceit (figure of speech which establishes a striking parallel between two apparently dissimilar things or situations). Keats also uses strong imagery of her "hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind" and her "patient look" while watching the "last oozings" of cider. Really showing the simple beauty of autumn, in the form of a woman.

In the final stanza/Epode, there is a shift of tone when Keats begins the stanza with a rhetorical question "Where are the songs of spring?", that is directed to the women/autumn in the second stanza. (This i thought was an interesting way of connecting the previous stanza with the shift in the third.) Keats tells the woman/autumn that her songs although sometimes sad "Then in a wailful choir the gnats mourn", the "Hedge-crickets sing" and "The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft." These descriptions of the sad and cheerful sounds of autumn, are meant to show the beginning and end of an autumn day and the season in general. "Among the river-swallows, borne aloft/or sinking as the light wind lives or dies" shows the metaphor of the entire third stanza. Keats tries to symbolize the changing of the sounds of the autumn animals, with the cheerful beginning and sad endings of an autumn day/season.

The connection between each clearly distinct and individual stanzas, comes from the story of autumn that Keats successfully tells. Beginning with the simple descriptions of the beauty of the nature of an autumn day. He then relates it to a woman who symbolizes the quiet splendor of autumn. Then the last stanza is Keats directly addressing the woman and autumn and questioning when spring will arrive and describing the sadness of the end of the autumn season through the changing sounds of the animals of autumn. Keats ends the third stanza almost bitter sweetly, when he relates the dying of the wind and days of autumn to the impending days of the cold and "dead" season of winter. When all the warmth of nature will slowly fade away, waiting in anticipation of spring and autumn, when all the beauty and sounds of nature will return.

I love the way this guy reads the poem! You will understand it better after hearing it.

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