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9/26/2018

Critical appreciation of “To Autumn”.


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“To  Autumn”  is an  exquisite piece of literary work.  Keats composed it when he was twenty-four in September  1819. It is a perfectly objective poem that describes the fruits, sights and sounds of an English Autumn.
“To  Autumn”  is a poem of thirty-three lines divided into three stanzas, each consisting of eleven lines. The first stanza presents the gifts of autumn; the second stanza presents the activities of autumn and  The third stanza the sounds. The gifts of  Autumn are ripe grapes and apples, gourds, hazelnuts. These vivid images of the fruits mainly  appeal to the sense of taste, though they also appeal to sight. Similarly, the picture of the over-brimming honeycomb is very vivid and appeals to the senses of sight and taste. The second stanza has more clear images, which appeal to the sense of sight. The reader’s are made to visualise autumn in the person of a reaper, a windowed, a cleaner, and a cider-presser (juice maker).  She is also seen to wade across a brook with a load on her head. All these activities of autumn appeal to the sense of sight. The third stanza is full of sounds. The wilful choir of gnats, the bleating of  lambs, the chirp of hedge-crickets, the songs of robins and the twitter  of swallows appeal to the sense of hearing. “ To  Autumn”   is,  thus, very rich in  concrete imagery and sensuous appeal.
“To  Autumn”  is written in the form of an ode. An ode is essentially a lyric poem addressed to some one. The poem has been addressed to  ‘Autumn’, the personification of a season. This ode is a private ode written on the model of the Horatian ode. It has three regular or uniform stanzas, each consisting of eleven lines. The rhyme scheme of each stanza, with a little variation in the last four lines of the first stanza, is abab cde cdde. Its lyrical quality or its music has been achieved by the use of rhyme, onomatopoeia, alliteration and assistance. Further,  an  ode ends with a sort of consolation.  “To  Autumn” also  offers consolation in its last  stanza. Autumn may not have the sweet songs of spring but it has its music. They may sound more like funeral dirge, but they are its own. “To  Autumn”, therefore, is a private ode  comprising of the address to Autumn, lyrical elements, and consolation for her.
The main figure of speech in this poem is the personification of autumn. In the person of a woman, Autumn has been presented as a living being. The other recurrent figures in the poem are alliteration and assistance. Almost every line has them. For instance, the alliteration in   “And  full-grown  lambs  loud  bleat  from  hilly  bourn“  (repetition of ‘I’)  and the alliteration in  ”oozings,  hours by hours”  (repetition of ‘s’) impart music. Keats has also used onomatopoeia in several lines. For examples, the onomatopoeia in the line  “With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run,”  imitates the serpentine movement of the vines along the edge of the roofs of cottages. The iambic meters (alternatively  accented syllables) in the line create an up and down movement of the sound that reflect the up and down movement of the vines. Similarly, the onomatopoeia in the following lines suggests the buzzing sound of bees:
“And  still  more,  later  flowers  for  The  bees,
Until  they  think  warm  days  will  never  cease,
For Summer has  o’  or-brimmed their clammy cells.“

The  repetition of “z”  sound suggests the sound of bees. The personification has made the poem objective, the uses of alliteration and assistance has contributed music  to  It, and the use of onomatopoeia has made it suggestive and musical.
“To Autumn” breathes the spirit of Greek poetry. It  is objective in nature, calm and serene in mood. The tone is impersonal  free from any kind of bitterness or philosophy. However, there are critics who think that there is personal touch in the poem. They think that the image of death implied by  “soft-dying“,  “wailful choir”,  and  ”gathering swallows”,  suggest Keats’  own  thought  of  death.  However,  there are other critics who do not agree with this interpretation. It is  perhaps better to consider  ”To Autumn” as an excellent piece of objective poetry that presents no personal anguish. Because the dying day does not only indicate the death of a day, it also indicates the birth of another day. Likewise, the  “gathering swallows” of winter does not only suggest the death of the year, it also suggests the beginning of the New year. Even if Autumn is taken as a symbol of death, the poet has accepted it as a natural course of events without any personal anguish. The truth about life cycle has been presented objectively in the poem.

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