What are the devices used in "To Autumn " by John Keats?

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Keats uses rhetorical questions in this poem, asking autumn the following:

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? . . . Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?

The second question, repeated twice, is an example of the type of repetition called epimone , which...

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Keats uses rhetorical questions in this poem, asking autumn the following:

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? . . . Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?

The second question, repeated twice, is an example of the type of repetition called epimone, which is repetition, usually of a question, for emphasis. The repetition of this question adds to the poem's sense of melancholy. Spring is long gone: it is juxtaposed against the bittersweet, if fertile, season of fall that is upon us, with winter to follow. However, the narrator quickly advises autumn to turn from those thoughts of spring, using alliteration or the repetition of the same consonant sound, in this case "th," to emphasize the switch in thoughts:

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too.

Keats also uses end rhymes. Each stanza begins, for example, with an ABAB rhyme scheme. In the third stanza, the rhyming words start off with every other last word rhyming: "they, too, day, hue." Keats uses a more complex end-rhyme scheme at the end of every stanza as well, rhyming words after a break of three lines which includes a rhyming couplet. For example, in the second stanza, we find:

Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
This attention to a somewhat complicated pattern of rhyme shows the care Keats put into this poem. In the last stanza, words like "mourn," "wailful," and "sinking" add to the melancholic tone of this ode.

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Keats’s “To Autumn” is an exercise in pathetic fallacy, the Romantic trope wherein a feature of nature is personified and given human motivations and attributes. As a poem addressed directly to personified Autumn, the work is also an apostrophe, made explicit when the poet uses the second person: “Who has not seen thee . . . ”

Autumn is imagined as a human figure, with hair and a hook (or scythe), and a head “laden” with cares. This imagery is extended over several lines, making it an epic or heroic metaphor. Simile compares Autumn directly to a “gleaner,” or farm worker gathering the product of the Autumn “store”.

Autumn is not the only personified creature in the poem, as the final stanza suggests all of nature is brought to life by it, especially the gnats and their “wailful choir.” The poem’s lack of straightforward rhyme is compensated for in steady rhythm and instances of melodic alliteration (“dying day,” “sallows . . . sinking”).

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A characteristic of Keats is his amazing ability to develop an idea to its extreme with great intellectual flexibility, and his "To Autumn" in its form and content is evidence of this ability. In his beautiful lyric poem Keats employs the following:

  • The ode form

First of all, this poem is an ode, a long, formal lyric poem with a serious theme and the traditional stanza structure of four lines with the rhyme scheme of abab and the remaining seven of cdecdde.

The most salient literary device in Keats's beautiful ode is personification. calling the season of Autumn "thee" and "close bosom friend of the maturing sun." Summer, too, is personified in the final line of the first stanza, "For Summer has o'er brimmed their clammy cells." And, both Summer and Autumn "conspire."

  • Apostrophe

The poet calls upon something that is not human--autumn--and directly addresses it:  "Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?"

"Where are the songs of Spring?" is also an example of apostrophe, as in a sense the poet evokes these melodies.

  • Imagery

Keats employs much language that appeals to all the senses. For instance, there is visual imagery in the first stanza with such words as "thatch-eyed," "mossed cottage trees," "plump the hazel shells,"  "flowers for the bees," "the granary floor," "full-grown lambs," and "crickets." Further, there is olfactory imagery with the smells of "sweet kernel,"and the "fume of poppies." Tactile imagery appears with "clammy cells,"winnowing wind"; aural imagery with "Music,""wailful choir," "treble soft," and "twitter."

Truly, "To Autumn" is a pleasurable ode to read because it delights the senses with its rich imagery and lyrical rhymes.  Certainly, this ode is a tribute to the great talent and sensitivity of John Keats

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