Ode to Autumn by John Keats

Introduction | Theme of the poem "Ode to Autumn" 

Critical appreciation / Summary of the poem "Ode to Autumn"

'Ode to Autumn' is Keats's the last of his great lyrics. It is regarded as the most shakespearean of Keats's poems. This poem, written in 1819, was inspired by a quiet walk through the stubble-field around Winchester. It contains the quiet and reverse of his quiet September days at Winchester. The theme of the poem is based on the poet's praise of the bounty and beauty of nature during autumn. Graham Hough says that it is the most in form and detail. Compton Ricket writes: "most satisfying of all the odds in thought and expression is the 'Ode to Autumn'." The ode is an objective and descriptive poem, though emotions governs the poets description of the Bounty and beauty of nature during this season. Autumn as a poetical symbol is commonly the prelude to writer. Above all, the ode is one of the best examples of Keats's ability to paint picture in poetry.

Keats sees is the beauty of autumn with its calm and reach tranquility. The poem gives not only fullness and softness of autumn, but also its more masculine qualities of roughness and vigour. The three stanzas of the poem show a gradual rise of thought. In the first stanza, autumn is viewed as the season itself, doing the season's work, bringing all the fruits of the earth to maturity in readiness for harvesting. In the second stanza, Autumn,  personified in women's shape, is present at the various operations of the vintage. In the third stanza, autumn is constrasted with spring. Spring is distinguished by its sweet songs of birds. Autumn does not possess those songs. The close of the ode breaths the spirit of hope. Autumn represents beauty and she has a beauty of her own which is incomparable.

The ode is characterized by the usual felicity of expression, for which Keats is famous and complete objectivity which lends to the artistic merit of the poem. It is a regular ode and consisting of three stanzas each containing 11 lines. the rhyme-scheme is the same in all the three stanzas. The rhymes are perfect and simple, chiefly in monosyllabic words; and there are no feminine endings. Manner and matter and not only superbly blended, but every line carries its noble freight of beauty. The first stanza is a symphony of colour, the second symphony of movement, the third symphony of sound. The poem shows that ripeness for Keats is both, a varied and an ordered concept. In this poem maturity is both achieved and transcended.


Keats sees beauty even in this season of Autumn which marks the end of summer and heralds the approach of winter with its biting cold and cheerlessness. The theme of the poem is concentrated on a dominant aspect of autumn. The first stanza deals with the fruits of autumn and their ripeness. In the second stanza, autumn is personified as a woman present at the various operations of the harvest and at cider-pressing. The third stanza dwells on the music of autumn. The music is reach and solemn. The poem gives a vivid description of the season. It is full of genuine hellenic spirit. Its attitude to Nature is essentially Greek. Autumn appears to the poet embodied in personality- as a reaper, or a gleaner, or a harvester, or a cider-presser.


Autumn is a season of mists and ripening fruits. The theme of the first stanza is the vegetative function of this season. The autumnal sun causes all sorts of fruits to ripen and become sweet to the very kernel. Autumn also causes the honey-flower to blossom late in this season in order to provide the bees with honey against the wintry months. The bees are deceived into feeling that summer days will never end. Thus autumn is here portrayed as bringing all the fruits of earth to maturity in readiness for harvesting.

In the second stanza, autumn is conceived as a harvester during the winnowing. The poet moves from ripened fruit, and the flowers and the bees, to the ripened corn, and cider-press, and against this background he sells a personified figure of Autumn. Autumn is depicted first as a harvester, sitting carelessly in the field during a winnowing operation; secondly as a tired reaper fallen asleep in the very mist of reaping; thirdly as a greener wapking homewards with the load on the head; and fourthly as a cider-presser, watching patiently for the final trickles of juice from the crushed apples.

the third stanza contains the picture that is the germ of the whole poem. Here the personified figure of autumn is replaced by concrete images of life, unaffected by any thought of death. Autumn is at the threshold of right winter; now the fields have been reaped; the winter clouds have appeared; the gnats are active in their welcome of the cold, and the lambs aana full-grown. There is the chirping song of the hedge-cricket or grass-hopper. The red breast sings shrilly. There is the twittering of this swallows as there rally for their winter migration, and try the strength of the wing for the long flight.This closes with the sunset and night-fall.

Keats is a pictorial artist. He paints pictures with words with great meticulous care. The poem is characterized by the usual felicity of diction. The language is simple and lucid and has a genuine poetic flow. It consists of three stanzas containing eleven lines. The rhymes are perfect and simple. Matter and manner not only superbly blended but every line carries its noble freight of beauty. The has rich and solemn music. Alliteration has seldom been used more effectively. Sometimes a blending of vowels and consonants creates the romance of orchestral harmonies as in the line - "While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day".