Setting – Obviously, the backdrop of the poem is that of the autumn season. While Keats was residing at Winchester for a few days it so happened that he went for a walk in the rural sides of the country. He much influenced by the scenic beauty of the late Autumnal aspects. This poem, written in 1819, was inspired by a quiet walk through the stubble fields around Winchester. It contains the quiet and repose of his quiet September days at Winchester. Soon the poemscape passes from the rural country to the perfect world of Autumn in all its glory. The poem describes the fretful activity of completion followed by the Autumn personified as a woman taking rest after the completion of her works. And finally, the poem concludes with the conclusion of the day where the evening beauties of nature are sublimated through the beauty of Autumn.
Summary of Ode to Autumn by John Keats
Stanza 1– Season of mists – autumn is described as the season during which air is misty. Mellow fruitfulness – ripe fruit; growth of ripe fruits. This is an instance of synecdoche. Fruitfulness is a case of the abstract for the concrete. Season . . .fruitfulness – Autumn is a season during which the air carries mist and fruits are matured and ripened. These are the two main characteristics of autumn. Close bosom friend – intimate and beloved friend. Intimate friendship and ability to conspire are human attributes. This expression illustrates the anthropomorphic faculty to Keats’ mind. Maturing Sun – the autumnal fruit matures all fruits. Its radiance brings the fruit to ripeness. Maturing – ripening. Conspiring – co-operating with the intention of. With him – with the sun. load – fill with a burden. Bless – confer well-being upon; prosper. Close . . . sun – autumn and the sun cooperate with each other to fill the trees with ripe portions or edges of the roofs of thatched cottage. The autumnal sun fills these vines with a plentiful crop of ripe fruits. The vines . . . run – the vine struggles round the eves of thatched cottage. Eves – eaves; projecting portions of roofs. Bend – bow because of the burden of the vines. Moss’d – covered with moss. Moss is soft and velvety and emerald in colour and grown in unfrequented places. Moss’d cottage-trees – trees covered with moss growing around the cottage. To bend. . . trees – autumn conspires with the sun to cause the moss-covered apple trees to bow down with a heavy burden of apples. All fruit – collective singular for all fruits. Fill all . . . core – to ripen all the fruits in the garden with ripe juicy pulp right up to their kernel. Core – kernel. Swell – increase in size. Gourd – pumpkin. Plump – fill and fatten. Plump . . . kernel – fill the shell of the hazelnut with a sweet kernel. Kernel – the sweet substance inside the hazelnuts. Set budding – cause of bud. Autumn conspires with the sun to cause to blossom. Later flowers – flowers that blossom later than their season. For the bees – for the sake of the bees, in order to provide then with honey for winter. They think – the bees think that the summer will never end. Warm days – summer. Cease – come to an end. O’er brimmed – filled the cells of the honeycomb to overflowing. Summer – summer is personified here. Clammy-cells – honey-combs. Clammy-sticky cells – the small holes in a honeycomb. Autumn provides more flowers in case the bees may like to draw more sweetness from them.
Stanza 2 – Who hath not seen thee – autumn is often seen. Amid thy store – in the fields in the midst of her treasures of corn which has been harvested. Who hath not. . . they store – this is an example of rhetorical question, i.e., ‘litotes’. It is a question implying a strong affirmation of the country. All must have seen autumn except those who are entirely devoid of imagination and the love of nature. Whoever seeks – one must seek fir her in the open world outside to find autumn. Thee – autumn. Careless – carelessly. The harvester, having collected the grains and stored them in a granary, is a picture of perfect contentment. A harvester sitting carelessly on the granary floor is a familiar sight. Granary floor – the floor of a house where grain is stored. Soft-lifted – gently lifted. Winnowing – fanning; fluttering. The winnowing wind – the wind ruffles and parts the locks of hair. Winnowing wind – the wind ruffles and parts the locks of hair. Winnowing – separating husk or chaff from grains. Autumn is imagined as a harvester; she is sitting on the floor of a granary strewn with corns, and the wind playfully lifts her hair. Keats’ imagination is artistic and pictorial. Half-reaped – half of the field being reaped. Furrow – plowed land, the corn field. It is along the furrow that the corns grow. Sound asleep – whoever seeks abroad may find her sound asleep on the half-reaped furrow. This sleep is caused by physical exhaustion and soporific odour of poppies which grow intertwined with the corns. Drows’d – induced. Fume- smoke. The fume of poppies – the heavy narcotic scent of poppies. The poppy is a flower from which opium is obtained. Thy hook – the scythe of the reaper. Autumn is personified as a reaper. Spares – abstains from; does not reap or cut. Swath – the width of the sweep of the scythe. It’s twined flowers – the intertwined stalks of poppies. It is a very human picture that Keats presents, the picture of a tired reaper fallen asleep on the furrow with the sickle held loosely in his hand.