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11/04/2018

“To Autumn” is an objective poem?.

“To Autumn”  is an objective poem?.


  In one of his letters, Keats claimed that he had the ability to keep himself aloof from his writings. He called this ability, “Negative capability”. This quality of a poet is also known as objectivity or impersonality.

Shakespeare had this ability of keeping himself absent in his writings; his personal life cannot be discovered in his plays. Keats certainly had objectivity though subjective from of writing was the tradition of his time.  “To Autumn”  best exemplifies his   “Negative capability”  or objectivity. He keeps himself absolutely absent in the scene. He does not express any personal emotion in it. Nor does he give in it any personal information. The ode is indeed a beautiful piece of objective art though some critics have discovered the acceptance of his own death in it.
The poem begins with an address to the autumn. Autumn is taken as a living being who, in collaboration with the Sun, ripens different fruits. This personification of autumn helps the poet maintain objectivity. The speaker remains behind the screen and goes on to the details of the season. This kind of poetic presentation is Greek in character because the Greek poets kept themselves away from their poetry. They personified natural objects and through them conveyed their meanings.

In the first stanza, Keats personifies Autumn and the Sun who work together as human beings to bring about the bounty of the season. They ripen grapes and apples, swell gourds, plump hazel nuts and bloom later flowers to help bees to collect honey. Since Autumn itself does all these things, the poet is not involved in it.

In the second stanza, autumn is presented in the person of a countrywoman. In this season of harvest she works most of the time in the field. She is found sitting carelessly in a granary field. Sometimes, she is found in deep sleep on a piece of half-reaped land. She is also seen as a gleaner who wades across a brook with the bundle on her head. At times, she works patiently with the juice maker. As in the first stanza, here also, the poet maintains Greek detachment. In other words, he remains aloof from the scene and describes the personified Autumn from a distance maintaining objectivity.

In the third stanza, Autumn has been asked questions, again taking it as a living being. Autumn does not have the sweet songs of spring. So, the speaker consoles her saying that she has her own music. Autumn’s songs are: the w ailful choir of the small gnats, the bleating of lamb, the sound made by crickets, and the twittering of swallows. Here also the poet consoles autumn and describes its music from a distance, maintaining detachment.


However, the two questions in the third stanza may lead one to think that Keats might have asked these questions to himself. It may be argued that  “spring” here refers to “youth” Keats had been suffering from TB and a thought of death haunted him constantly. For this reason, he did not have the usual joys of youth. From this personal frustration resulted these questions followed by self-consolation. Moreover, the references to death may also be taken as his own death, which haunted him always in the later part of his life. The “soft-dying day“,  ”wailful choir”,  ”mourn”  and ”dies” in the third stanza create an impression of death. Similarly the twittering of the gathering swallows in the sky suggest the beginning of winter for which those birds prepare themselves to migrate to a warmer weather. The winter, thus, suggests the beginning of winter for which those birds prepare themselves to migrate to a warmer weather. The winter, thus, suggests the death of vegetation. Some critics think that this recurrence of death is personal, and it weakens the objectivity of the poem.

It is true that there is a scope of interpreting subjective elements in these questions. Despite all this, “To Autumn” is universall acknowledged as an exquisite piece of objective poetry. The Sun rises and becomes matured in the first stanza. It sets in the last stanza. The rise and setting of the sun symbolically suggest birth and death. It, thus, indicates the process of continuity of man and nature. There is nothing in this poem that is particularly applicable only to Keats’ life. The poem is a General observation of mutability and continuity of human race. Therefore, it is objective like any Greek poem. 

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