Keats' Poems and Letters

"To Autumn" by John Keats 12th Grade

Of John Keats’ “Great Odes,” “To Autumn” is a poem which rests on a precipice. In other words, autumn lies directly between the life breath of spring and summer and the impending death of winter. Much to his advantage, Keats knowingly embraces autumn’s ambivalent nature in order to perpetuate the middle season’s own unique beauty. The result is an ode entirely dictated by negative capability, in which the common human context of autumn is transformed and reviewed in a new light. “To Autumn,” filled with both vivacious nature poetry and subtle nods in death’s direction, gradually affirms the paradoxical beauty of the season through stark contrast and steady change.

In the first stanza, Keats establishes autumn’s lively benevolence through traditional pastoral imagery, basking in autumn’s more conventional beauty with only slight references to the cold ahead or warmth prior. Here, abundance and excess are both prevalent themes. With summer only recently 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...

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