Overview

A reading of 'To Autumn'

In To Autumn, John Keats paints three perfect autumnal landscapes in three powerful stanzas. He also highlights the impact on the senses which occur to the patient observer. The poem is written in a highly formal pattern and combines rich imagery with clever use of personification.

The speaker addresses autumn directly and personifies it as a woman. The poem moves from the early stages of autumn to the coming of winter. It includes detailed descriptions of different aspects of the season which is seen as beautiful and full of natural wonder.

Keats composed this poem after a countryside walk and was excited and moved by what he saw. He has clearly captured the sights, sounds and smells that he experienced here. However, the speaker’s attitude throughout the poem gradually and subtly changes. At the start he is full of joy and wonder at the natural world as he describes the rich abundance that nature offers. By the time he reaches the third stanza there is a shift in his perspective. He becomes more reflective and melancholy as he considers what the passing of time actually means both to himself and humans in general.

As readers we are invited to share in Keats’ thought process. We are effectively drawn in by a lively and vibrant description before being asked to consider one of life’s big questions – why are we here?

Read the poem here.