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Critical Appreciation of "To Autumn"

"To Autumn" is an exquisite piece of literary work. Keats composed it at twenty four in September 1819. it is a perfectly objective poem that describes the fruits, sights and sounds of an English Autumn. There is no human being in the poem, there is only autumn in the shape of a woman, with her seasonal bounty, activities and songs and mainly keep in critical appreciation of to autumn .
Critical Appreciation of to autumn

Thought Development :

"To Autumn" is a poem of thirty- three lines divided into three stanzas, each consisting of eleven lines. The first stanza presents the gifts of Autumn; the second stanza presents the activities of autumn and the third stanza the sounds. Being taken as a skilled woman, she works in collaboration with the late summer sun to present its gifts: the juicy grapes and apples, the swelled gourd, the sweet hazelnuts and the honey-filled cells of the bees. In the second stanza, she is busy in harvesting. She is seen "sitting careless on a granary floor" while her hair is lifted by the winnowing-wind. Sometimes, she is also seen on a half-reaped field in deep slep. At other time she is found to carry on her head a bundle of gleaned crop. She is also often seen to work at a juice maker. She re-mains busy with all the conventional activities of the time. The third stanza presents the songs and sounds of the woman. She does not have the music of spring. But she has her own music. The "wailful choir" of the gnats, the twitter of the swallows, the bleating of the lambs, the song of the hedge-crickets and the whistle of the redbreast appeal to the sense of hearing. Her songs seem like a funereal dirge but they are her own.


As an Ode:

"To Autumn" is written in the form of an ode. An ode is essentially a lyric poem addressed to some one. The poem has been addressed to 'Autumn', the personification of a season. This ode is a private ode writ- ten on the model of the Horatian ode. It has three regular or uniform stanzas, each consisting of eleven lines.  its lyrical quality or its music has been achieved by the use of rhyme, onomatopoeia, alliteration and asso- nance. The rhyme scheme, with a little variation in the last four lines of the first stanza, is abab cde cdde. There are several lines producing music- cal effect by the use of onomatopoeia, alliteration and assonance. So, "To Autumn" is a lyric, a major condition to be an ode. An ode ends with a sort of consolation. "To Autumn" also offers consolation in its last stanza. Autumn may not have the sweet songs of spring but it has its own music. They may sound more like funereal dirge, but they are its own. Moreover, the image of "soft-dying day" does not only suggest the end of a day, it also suggests the beginning of a new day. Similarly, the "gathering swallows twitter in the skies" do not only suggest the end of a year, they also suggest the beginning of a new year. So, there is a note of consolation. "To Autumn", therefore,  is a private ode comprising of The address to autumn, lyrical elements, and consolation for her.

Imagery and Sensuousness :

"To Autumn" is well-known for its concrete imagery. The images of the poem very aptly appeal to human senses. The first stanza mainly ap- peals to the sense of taste, though it also appeals to sight. The ripe grapes and apples, gourds, hazelnuts, are concrete images and they bring water to the mouth of the readers, Similarly, the picture of the over-brimming hon- eycomb is very vivid and appealing to the senses of sight and taste. The second stanza has more clear images, which appeal to the sense of sight. The readers are made to visualise autumn in the person of a reaper, a win- nower, a gleaner, and a cider-presser (juice maker). She is also seen to wade across a brook with a load on her head. All these images appeal to the sense of sight. The third stanza is full of sounds. The "wailful choir" of gnats, the bleating of lambs, the chirp of hedge-crickets, the songs of robins and the twitter of swallows appeal to the sense of hearing.  "To Autumn" is, thus, very rich in concrete imagery and sensuous appeal.

Figures of Speech :

autumn- personification;

"mist and mellow fruitfulness"- alliteration ('m', 'f' and 'I' are repeated)

"With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run,"- onomato- poeia

fill all fruit-alliteration (I and f are repeated)

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells"

alliteration [ l is repeated]

"And still more, later flowers for the bees,

 Until they think warn days will never cease,

For Summer has o or-brimmed their clammy cells,"


"Thy hair soft lifted by the winnowing wind"-Onomatopoeia

summer........  brimmed....... clammy - alliteration
winnowing wind-alliteration
oozings , hours by hours -alliteration

Drowsed...... poppies.... hook - assonance
"And full - grown lambs bleat from hilly bourn"
Twitter -alliteration
The main figure in his poem is the personification of autumn. In the person of a woman, Autumn has been glorified in this poem. The other recurrent figures in the poem are alliteration and assonance. Almost every line has them. For instance, the alliteration in "And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn" (repetition of '1') and the alliteration in "oozings, hours by hours" (repetition of 's') impart music to the poem. There are several other instances of alliteration and assonance used for musical effect. Keats has also used onomatopoeia in several lines. For examples, the onomatopoeia in the line "With fruit the vines that round the thatch-ever," imitates the serpentine movement of the vines along the edge of the roofs of cottages. The iambic meters (alternatively accented syllables) in the line create an up and down movement of the sound that reflect the up and down movement of the vines. Similarly, the onomatopoeia in the following lines suggests the buzzing sound of bees:
"And still more, later flowers for the bees, Until they think warm days will never cease,For Summer has o 'or-brimmed their clammy cells."
The repetition of "z" sound suggests the sound of bees. The personification has made the poem objective, the use of alliteration and assonance has contributed music to it. and the use of onomatopoeia has made it suggestive.

Subjective or Objective :

"To Autumn" is a unique poetic composition. It breathes the spirit of Greek poetry. It is objective in nature, calm and serene in mood. The tone is impersonal, free from any kind of bitterness or philosophy.  It just ton presents a picture of English autumn as it is. However, there are critics who think that there is a personal touch in the poem. They think that the poem is about death. They consider autumn as a symbol of the end or death of a year. The "soft-dying day" and the funereal dirge like songs (wailful choir") are brought in favour of their argument. The gathering swallows and their twitter suggest their migration to warm weather be- cause of the advent of winter. They argue that this image implies death of the year. These critics identify here Keats' own thought of death. However, there are other critics who do not agree with this interpretation. It is perhaps better to consider "To Autumn" as an excellent piece of objective poetry that presents no personal anguish. Because the dying day does not only indicate the death of a day, it also indicates the birth of another day. Likewise, the advent of winter does not only suggest the death of the year, it also suggests the beginning of the new year. Even if autumn is taken as a symbol of death, the poet has accepted it as a natural course of events without any personal anguish. The truth about life cycle has been presented objectively in the poem.


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