Show how relevant are the theme, technique, and imagery of Keat's poem "To Autumn" to the Romantic movement?  

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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  • John Keats' "To Autumn" is an ode, which is a lyric poem that addresses and honors a subject--in this case, nature.  Romantics, as you know, esteem nature.  The poem also uses the metaphor of Autumn (or nature) as a goddess, so it is classical.
  • Romantics believe in the classical view of nature (think Garden of Eden here).  According to this view, nature is a paradise, the perfect harmony of man, the divine, and the organic.  It is a Utopia, worthy of an ode (poetry), corresponding Utopian language.
  • The language of the ode is simple, reflecting the natural language of man.  The Romantics sought to wrest poetry from the elitists and render in anew for the common man.  As such, Keats' diction mirrors his subject matter.  So says Enotes:

There is a union between the ideal and the real which leads to fulfillment. Of all of Keats's poems, "To Autumn" most closely describes an actual paradise while focusing on the archetypal images that are connected with autumn. Within the poem, the season of autumn represents the growth, the maturation, and finally an approaching death.[19] The poem also defends art's role in helping society in a manner similar to Keats's "Ode on Indolence" and "Ode to Psyche". "To Autumn" describes a system in which nature and culture are two separate parts of the universe, and nature is turned into culture by an artist. Civilization is furthered by man's ability to use nature for agricultural cultivation. The artist, like the farmer, has to process nature into a consumable object, which in turn allows people sustenance. The end of the poem is joined in song as nature gives way to civilization, which represents the self-sacrificing of both nature and the artist for society.

  • The poem also inductively addresses the theme of beauty in death.  Autumn, as most would have it, is time when nature dies.  But Keats sees it as a time of unmatched beauty, even more than Spring.  He accepts death as a natural part of the life cycle.
  • The poem is very meta.  It deals with harvesting grain, which is symbolic of knowledge.  So, the act of writing about nature is an act of meta-cognition by the speaker.  He recognizes his own mental harvesting of the natural beauty and knowledge that Autumn affords.


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