This poem asserts the way in which "the poetry of earth" never ceases nor dies, as its song is carried on throughout the year by nature in its various guises. The title refers to the way in which the grasshopper and cricket are able to carry on this poetry even in the harshest or most inhospitable of weathers, when all other forms of nature are silent. The grasshopper is able to "take the lead / In summer luxury" in the heat of the summer when "birds are faint with teh hot sun." Likewise, in the depths of winter, when "the frost / Has wrought a silence" the cricket is able to sing out its poetry of earth from the stove. Both the cricket and the grasshopper therefore seem to operate as a pair, one taking over from the other, to ensure, as is repeated twice in this Romantic poem, that nature, or, "the poetry of earth" is never dead and there is always some example of the beauty of nature that characterises this form of poetry.
John Keats' Sonnet "On the Grasshopper and the Cricket" was written on December 30th 1816. The message of this poem is foregrounded in these two lines:
"The poetry of earth is never dead" which is the opening line of the octave and the poem; and "The poetry of earth is ceasing never"which is the first line of the sestet. Keats asserts emphatically that no matter what the season, whether it is the peak of scorching summer or the bitterly cold winter season the music and 'poetry' of Mother Nature will be omnipresent and add vitality to the environment.
The octave and the sestet compare and contrast a hot summer day and a bitterly cold and lonely winter evening. It's so hot that the usually chirpy and active birds have taken shelter amongst the shady trees and the whole countryside seems to be quiet, but just then one can hear the ever active grasshopper chirping away merrily in the hedges.
Similarly when one is cosily sheltered in the comfort of his home in front of a warm stove from the cold frosty winter and is beginning to feel lonely, the silence is shattered by the shrill chirpings of the cricket which adds meaning to the lonely winter evening without filling it up by reminding him of the music of the grasshopper in the summer months.