Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
John Keats wrote one of his best poems, “To Autumn,” on Sunday, September 19, 1819. Its remarkably quick completion exemplifies Keats’s accomplishments generally. The poem was written rapidly in a life notable as one of the briefest and most compact of all the great poets’ lives. It is the last of the odes that Keats composed from May to September of 1819 and thus one of the last poems he ever wrote. At the beginning of the following year, the signs of his tuberculosis appeared, and on February 23, 1821, he died in Rome at the age of twenty-five. Keats’s poetic career lasted only five years, and he wrote intensively for only three of those years.
Keats wrote five poems that he called odes during these middling months of 1819; “To Autumn” is designated by its title as an ode, and its form and manner echo those other poems, so critics generally classify it thus. The ode is a Greco-Roman classical form. Its two greatest early practitioners were the Greek Pindar and the Roman Horace. Keats’s odes resemble Horace’s more than they resemble Pindar’s. They comprise stanzas that incidentally bear some resemblance to the very nonclassical sonnets he had already written. In all the odes except “Ode to Psyche” (1820), the stanzas are of regular length.
For “To Autumn,” Keats chose an eleven-line length instead of his more usual ten-line pattern. He always begins his odes with an initial abab rhyme scheme, then switches...
(The entire section is 1258 words.)
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