What is a short summary of the poem "Autumn Song" by Paul Verlaine?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

French Symbolist poetry is full of unusual, descriptive images and symbols; such images and symbols often relate to bodily organs. Symbolist poetry focuses on capturing the human emotional experience and often does so in a way that the experience seems dreamlike. As a Symbolist poem, Paul Verlaine's poem "Autumn Song" is full of unusual images and symbols that depict a person feeling sorrowful as the person reminisces about the past. The person can even be interpreted as being ill and dying. If we relate the speaker of the poem to the poet, then the images and symbols of illness and death can be interpreted as referring to the poet as he struggles to create his work, as if his mind was dying and failing to create words ("Autumn Song—Themes and Meanings").

The opening stanza contains the words "sobs," "violin-throbs," and "heart," as well as the symbol "autumn wound." The unusual image "violin-throbs" captures the rhythmic sound of a violin playing, as if the sound is pulsating. The pulsating sound parallels the image of a "heart" as it beats and pulsates, albeit with a "languorous," meaning slow, and "monotonous," meaning unvarying, rhythm. This person's heart is slowly beating as the person sobs and reflects on an "autumn wound." Autumn is often seen as a symbol of death that gives way to new life. By adding the word "wound," the poet could be saying the speaker feels wounded by the thought of autumn's death, as the speaker sobs while reflecting on his own impending death that will soon stop the speaker's heart. In short, the first stanza describes the speaker as sorrowfully reflecting on the death brought by autumn. Again, if we relate the speaker of the poem to the poet, then we can interpret the speaker as sobbing while he thinks of his mind as being dead and unable to produce words.

In the second stanza, the words "choking" and "pale" reflect the speaker's illness, as ill people often look pale and have difficulty breathing. The stanza depicts the ill speaker passing the hours while weeping and thinking of earlier days.

In the final stanza, the speaker becomes fully united with autumn's symbolization of death by saying, "I let me go," and likening himself to a dead leaf being blown by the wind. All in all, the final stanza describes the speaker as dying the way a dead leaf falls off a tree. Again, if we relate the speaker to the poet, we can interpret the poet's mind as metaphorically having died in its inability to produce poetry.

renelane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The eighteen line poem features a first person narration consisting of mainly rhyming couplets. The themes are that of melancholy and nostalgic memories.

The first stanza begins with the description of a violin playing a decidedly sad score that affects the poet, who has a kindred feeling of melancholy.

The second stanza adds a ticking clock to the music of the violin. The clock marks the passage of time, while the poet thinks of the past. The memories cause him to cry-which further adds to the Autumn song.

The third and final stanza reveals the poet drained by the sad memories and circumstances. The poet is like a "dead leaf" blown violently around. The poem ends on a melancholy and nostalgic note.

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