Blake begins the seasonal cycle poems in spring, personified as an angelic male figure with “dewy locks,” “angel eyes,” “holy feet,” and “perfumed garments.” The earth is represented as a female, maturing to an age of sexual willingness. The speaker is asking for the male angel spring to come down to earth and prepare to sow the seed of a new cycle. Again, morning represents the new day of light (experience) and the speaker is inviting his spring angel to “scatter thy pearls / upon our lovesick land” hoping to inspire a new commitment to emotion across England (“our western isle”) rather than everything being done for reason or sense. He speaker asserts that spring is dawn, the new beginning, and during this season, there is an overall hope that primal unity and innocence will withhold the tyrannical influence of experience. The mood of this poem is hope (lines 6-7). After winter’s tough temperament of scorn, spring is a season that offers the land a fresh new rising to do away with what has been learned and experience nature with fresh, innocent eyes.
Next comes summer, which can be equated to Blake’s mythological creature Orc—the embodiment to passion and energy, and the opposition to Urizen, who is represented in winter. If spring was the beckoning of the angel to spread thy seed of innocence, summer is the time when the seed is devoured and offspring will be produced, in other words, it is the immediate state following spring where the marriage is consummated with fertilization (lines 9-13). It is a blissful state, the speaker begins by setting a plea that summer abate the fierce heat of the innocence and the spiritual world and allow the natural earth to yield to its desires. The fire of the sun is a metaphor for passion, the speaker recognizing the “fierce stead” of the “the heat [and] flames” and the “joy” the natural world experiences in its glow. Everything appears more beautiful (lines 15-17) in this ‘naked/natural ’ state (“silk draperies off”) and nothing is “lacking” in the “dance” and “sultry heat” of this euphoric season.
Enter autumn. This is spring’s antithesis, the arrival of the killjoy or prophet of doom. In typical Blake dialectic style, autumn is the offspring of the inebriated summer. Thrust into a world that is darkening, there is a primal separation that leads to the opposite of summer’s joy. The newborn autumn is “stain’d with the blood of the grape” (a reference to wine) and seeks “rest.” Notice the beginning of the second stanza to the middle of the third is autumn speaking, describing the orgasmic rapture of summer’s consummation (a female opening her beautiful bud, love rushing through thrilling veins, flourished bright cheeks, breaking into song, her head is in the clouds, fruit is bore among joy and pinions light). Overall, the temperament of autumn’s description of summer’s love is lustily virile. Sadly, as the poem ends, the offspring—autumn—must leave her mother and “flea” into the “bleak hills” alone to survive in the forthcoming brutality of winter.
Lastly is winter, the end result of all this lust and abandonment. Winter is clearly Blake’s Urizen—the embodiment of convention and law, maturity and experience, and the antithesis to summer (Orc). Despite the speaker’s pleas in the opening stanza, winter, the father/priest/King/tyrant “direful monster” “hears [him] not.” Notice the scepter he carries as a symbol of his rule. In this season all the passion of the sun is gone and the tyrant king “freezes up frail life.” Finally, notice how the oppressive ruler rapes the land unlike (stanza three) the joyful union in summer. This time, the consummation of female nature is expressed with brutality and frustration rather than ecstasy. In the end, winter sits in Mount Hecla (in Iceland), ignoring the “mariner’s vein cries” for help. The poet is aware that while unable to navigate a frozen and dead world, there will be no relief until the monster is defeated.
The Season Songs (“To Spring,” “To Summer,” “To Autumn,” and “To Winter") are grouped together for obvious reasons. While they do stand alone as four separate poems, Blake intended the four poems to be interconnecting. Without question, it is the theme of the cycle that needs to be taken away from these. Yet the specific cycle to which Blake is referring is debatable amongst Blake scholars. In the synopsis above, I have presented one commonly accepted interpretation as an example to the way the poems can be discussed in relation to one another.
There are two other articles to note: One is the allusion to the James Thomas 1726 quaternary (meaning, a collection of four poems together) “The Seasons.” Because of this, some argue the subject of these poems is poetry itself, and the cycling of allusion and metaphor, because of the numerous references to literary objects.
In general, the Season Songs can be interpreted as a reference not to nature and the arts, but to sexual desire and fulfillment, and to the different stages of human life and civilization (though of course that is only one possible interpretation of many). Some believe the poems to be representative of religion and nature, others as the history of poetry from the east to the west. As long as the theory of oppositions and cycles is applied, almost any analysis can be offered.