Poems by John Keats are a source of inspiration. He plays with his readers and takes them to places and times with his words. What inspiration does Keats bring? He inspire his readers to go beyond his words and discover a new world he creates. He makes his words so colorful and alive it is almost musical to the ear. When one reads Keats, he wonders what’s in his heart when he wrote his particular poem and makes him want to be in Keats world and senses.
In this particular review, I tried to see Keats world of autumn from afar. A world detached, to objectively examine and look at autumn as Keats paints it with his words. I also wanted to get a perspective of Keat’s style with words, of how he uses them as a vehicle for others to journey to his world.
In this same review, I tried to experience the world that Keats created and feel both the experience of his symbols and my comprehension of what he symbolizes autumn to be.
The formal and thematic aspect of the poem will be commented on but this interpretation will be candid as I believe Keats wanted his poem read. Throughout the three stanzas of the poem, Keats has maintained the ten syllable measure of each line, although, the foot measure of syllable stressed is a little slacked. As in the lines, “Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find” and some more.
Reading aloud the verse, Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook spares the next swath and all its twined flowers: I could not quite place the stress of the syllables to create a rhythmic sound. I call it literary license, Keats permit his reader to make a decision and choose the way to vocalize his poem. The first stanza is vibrant and tells us of bounty. It is a direct contradiction of autumn or fall as the season is the time when trees begin to bare its leaves and fruits are scarce. But in this poem, Keats describes autumn as the climax of summer, ”Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;” mist and mellow here are used as a welcoming scenario to a world filled with life and produce.
The last word of the first line fruitfulness rhyming with bless on the third line and sustaining the rhythmic scale throughout the stanza gives a musical air as one reads the poem aloud. The stanza tells us also of a promise of continuity. “To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells with a sweet kernel; to set budding more, and still more, later flowers for the bees,” true to the rhythm of his verses, Keats described autumn as a time when seeds are planted for life to continue. It tells as of a beginning of a season, fresh and ready for a new experience in a manner where the season before it, which is summer, in the festivities of plenty and not as a dying season ready to be forgotten and left behind.
Autumn in Keats” dedication receives Summer’s gift of plenty, it began as a climax of summer and therefore, promise to be a season 3 of new discoveries and not as bleak as shedding away the leaves of trees to forgetfulness. In the second stanza, the word flowers does not rhyme with any other words at the end of each line. I need to read the poem aloud and discover a rhythm for it to make the poem alive, it gets into a perfect rhyme with the word “spares’ if that’s where I put the measure at the end of the first line, thus, “ Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook Spares / the next swath and all its twined flowers.”
The same with the last two lines of the second stanza, “Or by a cyder-press, with patient look, Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours,” by simply repeating the word, the seemingly ignored rhyme is captured. This is my personal preference of setting the rhythmic pattern of vocalizing the poem, although, the rhyme pattern of the three stanzas comes out to be ababacacaaa, ababcdecdde, and ababcdecdde, in this particular order. It can be observed that the first stanza follows an independent rhyme pattern from the other two stanzas. Keats may have done it intentionally to stress the change of tone of the second stanza that is presented as a question.
Why could Keats have done this? As I get absorbed in the autumn scenario of the first stanza, feeling the cool air and seeing laden apple trees bend, the mossed cottage, the vines and more, feeling the climax of summer shared into the start of autumn, and as I get lost to the world that Keats painted with his words, somebody shoots a question like, ”Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?” and I was reminded that I am not alone. It was not even a question in the sense that Keats emphasized the beauty of the season being one that cannot be ignored.
If he likened autumn as a stage of life’s journey and we choose the paths that we travel on, in the roads we took as we travel in this world, we met people to keep us company, 4 sometimes partway, the greatest thing maybe is to find beauty in life that keeps us company all through the journey. Reading the second stanza brings another question to my mind. What do I really seek for in this life? Why does Keats made me ask this when he wrote, “Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,” What Keats said in this line is that there are people who sought for things in this life away from where they really are and in fact, what they are seeking for is just within reach.
Very clearly he meant happiness, he meant beauty of living, the beauty of living in the here and now. Keats wanted to tell his readers that we need not wait for what we can achieve in the future to experience the joy of being alive. We need only to be aware of the blessings we could find in the present to feel that joy that we seek for in our journey. The third stanza is a validation of the second stanza both in form and interpretation. I noticed that both have the same rhyme pattern and both starts with a question.
It tells us of men looking out for joy too far out as in spring in autumn failing to notice that joy is just within reach. “:Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?”, Keats wanted us to know that in this life’s journey, happiness is not about the things we reap in the future but of finding happiness in every endeavor that we do without waiting for whatever fruits or rewards we earned as a result of our works. He tells us that like spring or summer or winter, autumn carries within itself its own music like the wailful choir of small gnats, the loud bleats of full-grown lambs, the songs of crickets, the whistles from garden croft, the twitter of the swallows.
Keats wanted his readers to discover them. The choice of the word “wailful”, the reader can almost hear the liquid fall of tears of the gnats” mournful music. Sad, yet in Keats world of words 5 they represented life’s emotions that eventually gives meaning to everyone’s existence. He pictures autumn’s soft dying day with rosy hue and not with the bleak grey or the dying blackness of the welcoming dark, but of shades of the rose, full of life, full of promise, perhaps of another day ahead, a goodnights sleep, a beautiful dream, a walk in the moon? Or whatever the good life brings in the third part of man’ life.
The poem is not necessarily strict with the academic form of the poem although as much as possible Keats wanted to adhere to the scholarly it dictates. In this form, the poem creates a character of free spirit and that refused to be tamed. The three stanzas o f the poem expresses a discipline. It follows a form respecting rhyme, measure, rhythm, color, and all the constituents of this form of literature. Yet, it does hesitate to lay away the conventional to express the soul of his expression as Keats diversion from the rhyming pattern to the rhyming pattern he followed on the second and third stanza. The syllabic measure of the words spares and flowers are left to the decision of the reader, making the reader an active participant to the interpretation of the poem.
The three parts of the poem suggest the three stages of man’s life at a point of view, being at birth and early life, maturity and finally at the golden old age of man. But Keats only suggest, because all three speaks of seeking the joy of finding the beauty that life brings. The poem itself, as a form, is music to the ears. His play of rhythm, rhyme, and choice of words, in the context of emotionally attaching the self during its vocalization is like listening to the music of nature. The poem vividly expressed the colors of autumn using nature’s characters as in “rosy hue”. It does not boast with lengthy lines, numerous stanzas, academic words to express the simplicity of enjoying life, in life’s term. 6
The poem “To Autumn” is a metaphor. Keats represented the season as man’s objects of his endeavors. In the same manner, the times of the seasons’ days represented man’s three stages in life. Why has Keats chosen autumn to represent ingredients of life’s journey? Maybe because of the colors it creates as the season journeys towards another. Maybe because autumn carries with itself the fruitful harvest of summer and links itself to the preparation winter does for a new life in spring. All these are speculations, and these speculations made me look into my life and my attitudes towards life as a journey.
A lot of interpretations had considered “To Autumn” as one of the greatest odes that Keats had written. “Written in September of 1819, this piece is regarded as his most achieved ode.” 1. If all forms of writing, in different degrees of exertions aims to manipulate the reader’s mind to a certain mode of thoughtfulness, then Keats’ has manipulated mine into a romantic mode of communing with nature as a tool of reflection.
He has vividly painted a picture of a season with words so successfully so that its form takes life and invited its readers to experience the joys of the season. It invited everyone to forget about worrying so much about future and take the joys of life in the here and now.