Close Reading Analysis – “To Autumn” By Keats Part 2

close reading to autumn keats part 2

Okay, so if you haven’t read the piece I posted earlier today, I basically decided to give some tips on how to do a close reading. But cos I did all that prep, I decided I may as well actually write the thing. Hopefully all the English Lit students can forgive how rusty I am 😉

“To Autumn” by Keats reads much like a love letter. Addressed to the season, it both evocatively captures its spirit and evokes the poet’s mixed feelings of the transience of time.

Nature is heavily personified though sensory imagery, capturing the intense devotion of the poet.  Pursuing the “sweet” taste and the synesthetic “treble soft” voice of nature, Keats writes as if to a lover. Thus the poet highlights the quality of the season- its beauty and “budding” fertility. As the poem progresses, other characteristics, such as “Thy hair soft-lifted by winnowing wind”, are highlighted. This uplifting personification raises Autumn to an almost godlike status, with the ability to “bless/With fruit” and offer a season of plenty.

This devotion to the subject feeds into the song-like quality of the poem. With a lilting iambic pentameter, the poet uses a natural rhythm and rhyming structure to create a sense of musicality. Furthermore, the soft sibilance and alliteration of the opening line- “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”- gives the tone a gentle quality. Keats moreover incorporates sound imagery in nature’s own symphony of “bleats” and “whistles”, emphasising a oneness between art and the natural world.

However, by stanza three, the song becomes a melancholic “wailing choir”. The tone turns elegiac, recalling images of death so that by the end “the small gnats mourn”. For all the sense of timelessness captured in the bees’ belief that “warm days will never cease”, time flows away “hours by hours”. Thereby, Keats captures the transience of the time period, caught between notably distinct seasons of life and death. It is the oxymoronic in between moment of the “full grown lamb” and consequently full of uncertainty over who “lives or dies”.

Additionally, the cyclical nature of the poem is stressed by the inclusion of other seasonal elements. The fecundity of summer that “o’er brimmed” with supplies is contrasted with a winter-like hibernation, “drows’d with the fume of poppies”, which is simultaneously inviting and toxic. It captures perfectly the contradiction of terms that is Autumn- where “barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day”. In this alternating plosive and sibilant alliteration, Keats creates a transformative contrast of sound and sight imagery, demonstrating the paradox at the heart of the poem.

Yet for all the progress of “To Autumn” from life to death, the poet alludes to a hope beyond its ending. In the double entendre of the “swallows” in the final line, the poem returns to the consumption of the start, reviving the lively “ripeness” of the opening in a circular manner. Here then is the allusion of closure, as the song trails off and the bird imagery, symbolic of resurrection, elevates the reader to the further possibilities of heavenly “skies”.

In conclusion, “To Autumn” both transcends and embodies the season. It embraces the inevitable whilst also looking beyond. Personifying nature, Keats lovingly muses over this contradictory time period, with its possibilities and its uncertainties.

(Final tips, make sure to always include an introduction and conclusion even if it’s just a rushed couple of lines like mine 😉 Also note to self: quit rushing things 😉 )

Man, I’m not gonna lie, that was tough. It’s been years since I’ve done one of those, but I hope it was interesting/helpful. Also what would you like to see in the future? Let me know about that in the comments!

And cos I haven’t said it, I hope all of my American friends had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday!

On Bob Dylan Winning the Nobel Prize for Literature

(Boy, I’m gonna get in so much trouble for this…)


I wasn’t going to do a piece on this, but a couple of days ago I read a post on here that kind of pissed me off… so I felt like I had to. Now, I’m not linking to the post or author because I am about to be super critical and I don’t want to be discourteous or call anyone out. (Please let me know if you think I should have done this differently or if you are the author of said post and would like to be included)

[Edit: the post has been deleted now anyway – which I sincerely hope was not because I disagreed in a comment- my intention was only ever to start a discussion]

Okay- after that pretty long preamble I will state for the record that while I do love Bob Dylan, I disagreed with the decision to give him a Nobel Prize for Literature for two main reasons:

  1. It was a gimmicky move designed to make headlines for the awards and not for the sake of literature. I’ve seen this kind of thing happen in the Art world before and it is often just for attention
  2. While I agree that Dylan and other songwriters write poetry, there are already awards for music

Now there are plenty of other reasons people have given both for and against. But the article on here that I read did not address any of these. Instead it attacked Dylan for being a “white male”- and I really objected to this on two grounds:

  1. That’s racist and sexist. Claiming someone doesn’t deserve something because of who they are is prejudiced and discriminatory- I don’t care who the victim is.
  2. It’s not even accurate. Dylan is of Jewish descent and therefore belongs to an ethnic minority. (I am going to add pre-emptively that it is actually a very anti-Semitic trope to say he has “privilege” as a Jew)

Just to be clear, I’m happy for awards in any industry to be inclusive. I personally love reading books by all different authors regardless of race, religion or ethnicity! But to suggest someone should *not have* received an award because of what you see when you look at them, flies in the face of any liberal way of thinking. If you want to promote books you love, do it in a positive way and not by detracting from the success of others. I would like to assume that most people reading this are only hoping for a freer and more equal world- let’s not undermine that by this kind of behaviour.

Now- I’m fairly aware that this will displease plenty of readers- but don’t be shy- if you disagree or have any thoughts I’d like to hear about it! Fire away in the comments!

And if you would like to respond in a piece of your own you are very welcome!