The speaker begins his ode to autumn by describing the bountiful natural scenes that characterizes the season. He sees autumn as the "close-bosomed friend" of the sun, who "conspired" with him to bring the natural riches of summer to their peak. He mentions vines and tree branches weighed down with ripe, heavy fruit, as well as the fall gourds and hazelnuts waiting to be picked. The season’s abundant beauty and sweetness make it seem as though its happy days will never end.
In the first stanza, the speaker sets the tone of the poem with highly evocative, sensual language. The long, soft syllables of the first line, "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness," combined with the repetition of 's' sounds, ease the reader into the poem, echoing the scenery's calm atmosphere. The line is stretched longer as its speaker languors in the moment, attempting to make it last as long as possible. Turning his attention to the sights he sees in the natural world, the speaker lists fall’s sweet rewards. Ripe fruits and vegetables fill the surrounding landscape. Flowers continue to bloom, and bees keep buzzing between them. However, when the speaker says that summer has "over-brimmed" the bees' "clammy cells," he subtly suggests that all is not as well as it seems.
In the stanza's last lines, the unaffected joy the speaker witnesses quickly turns into ignorance. He watches summer's last labors slip into autumn's sly happiness, where the beautiful days must, at some point in the near future, cease. This first section of the poem describes a world that has reached its peak, and foreshadows its inevitable, impending decline. For the speaker, a cruel deception underlies the season's delight. In the midst of autumn's "mellow fruitfulness" is the grave truth of death: the pleasure and bounty must end.