What is the prevailing mood in "To Autumn"?

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linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The prevailing mood of "To Autumn" is peace and contentment. The year is winding down. The fruit trees and vegetables have matured and ripened, the fields have been harvested, the granaries have been filled. Like spring, autumn has its own music:

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
        Among the river sallows, borne aloft
            Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
    And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
        Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
        The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
           And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

While there is a peaceful mood about the poem, there is a hint of sadness as well.

I cannot read one of Keats's poems without thinking about how short his life was and how his poetry reflects his thoughts on life and death. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 26 in 1821. He wrote "To Autumn" only two years earlier. In a sense, Keats was in the autumn of his own life. By showing peace and contentment in the closing of the year, Keats was in essence saying that he had come to terms and was at peace with the fact of his illness and imminent death.

skampani | Student
The prevailing mood in 'To Autumn' is that of the union between joy and melancholy. In my opinion, this poem outlines the theme that joy can only be appreciated in juxtaposition with sadness. Life can only be lived to its fullest extent if death is present at its very conception. The beauty and joy experienced in 'To Autumn' are heightened by the passage of time and the coming of winter.The beauty and joy of the dying day are reflected in and complemented by images evoking sadness:the sun setting on the stubble fields and the wail of the gnats. Contentment which directly evokes sadness and implies acceptance of the process toward death beyond grief, is mirrored in Keats' poem.