How is "To Autumn" unlike a traditional ode?
Instead of simply admiring autumn, the speaker communicates a complex view of the season characterized by its contradictions. Autumn may be the season of "mists and mellow fruitfulness," but it also blooms "the soft-dying day" and evokes the mournful cries from the animals and insects throughout the landscape. The speaker's difficult praises don't devoutly place autumn on a pedestal. Rather, he strives to reconcile the season's joys with the sorrows it foreshadows and promises. Likewise, while the poem certainly expresses a personal view of the season through its language, imagery, and tone, the 'I' is absent from its stanzas, generalizing the poem's emotions rather than tying them to a specific persona.
The speaker arrives at what conclusion by the end of the poem?
In stanza three, the speaker realizes the futility of longing for spring in the midst of autumn: time passes, and it's better to enjoy the present moment instead of thinking of the past or lamenting the future. Although the details he uses could easily be present in both spring and summer, the knowledge that autumn is the last season standing between winter clouds them with a mournful, fatal element. However, all is not lost: seasons endlessly cycle through one another, and spring will always come again. For the people who find themselves in the autumn of their lives, there is still time to enjoy the beauty before them, without spoiling it with dreams of an impossible past and future.