To Autumn Questions and Answers
by John Keats

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What is the message of the poem "To Autumn" by John Keats?

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the final stanza, the speaker of the poem suggests that the season of Spring is always thought of as the most beautiful of seasons. However, he wants to make the argument, it seems, that Autumn is every bit as beautiful as Spring; its beauty is simply of a different kind. The speaker assures Autumn that it ought not concern itself with "the songs of spring" because "thou hast thy music too." In other words, the beauty of spring may be less subtle than the "rosy hues" of Autumn's "soft-dying days," but that does not mean that the loveliness of Autumn is any less. There is a beauty in Autumn's abundance and fullness and ripeness, and that is something Spring lacks. The message, then, is that we ought to appreciate the beauty of fall and of finding beauty, perhaps, in unexpected places.

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Eleanora Howe eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As always, it's difficult to say what the single most important message of a particular work of literature is, and John Keats' "To Autumn" is no different. However, it is possible to say what one of the major themes/messages is. In general, one can argue that the poem's message focuses on describing the melancholy beauty of the season of autumn and connecting this description to the general beauty of endings and conclusions within the cycles of the natural world.

Throughout the poem, Keats lingers on the beauty of the natural world during autumn. However in the last stanza, he more forcefully connects autumn to the beauty of endings (or death) within the natural world. For instance, Keats says, "Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn / Among the river sallows, borne aloft / Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies" (27-29), and these lines reference the "death" that autumn ushers in in preparation for winter. However, while melancholy, Keats sees this natural "death" as beautiful in its own right, as it follows a productive harvest that symbolizes a fruitful existence. Keats underscores this melancholy positivity by infusing even this last stanza with exceptionally beautiful natural imagery.

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