Poems published in 1820, by John Keats

To Autumn.


Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;

To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,

And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

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,

Until they think warm days will never cease, 10

For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.


Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?

Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find

Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,

Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;

Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,

Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook

Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:

And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep

Steady thy laden head across a brook; 20

Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,

Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.


Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too —

While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,

And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn

Among the river sallows, borne aloft

Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 30

Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft

The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Notes on ‘To Autumn’.

In a letter written to Reynolds from Winchester, in September, 1819, Keats says: ‘How beautiful the season is now — How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather — Dian skies — I never liked stubble-fields so much as now — Aye better than the chilly green of the spring. Somehow, a stubble-field looks warm — in the same way that some pictures look warm. This struck me so much in my Sunday’s walk that I composed upon it.’ What he composed was the Ode To Autumn.

ll. 1 seq. The extraordinary concentration and richness of this description reminds us of Keats’s advice to Shelley —‘Load every rift of your subject with ore.’ The whole poem seems to be painted in tints of red, brown, and gold.

ll. 12 seq. From the picture of an autumn day we proceed to the characteristic sights and occupations of autumn, personified in the spirit of the season.

l. 18. swath, the width of the sweep of the scythe.

ll. 23 seq. Now the sounds of autumn are added to complete the impression.

ll. 25–6. Compare letter quoted above.

l. 28. sallows, trees or low shrubs of the willowy kind.

ll. 28–9. borne . . . dies. Notice how the cadence of the line fits the sense. It seems to rise and fall and rise and fall again.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56