In Keats' Ode, why is autumn season called "mellow fruitfullness"?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first stanza of Keats' ode To Autumn is replete with sensory images that seek to illuminate the spirit of life found in the season of autumn.  The opening line of "Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness" indicates a rich tapestry of natural life present.  Mellow fruitfulness is an opening that develops Keats' imagery of ripe apples and orchard of vines with fruit ripening.  There is a life spirit that is present in the first stanza's description of autumn.  The "close bosomed friend of the sun" brings to mind the sun drenched fields of the autumn sun as an almost inevitable partnership between the season and the sun.  Filling all the fruit with "ripeness to the core" as well as the description of autumn as a season that is to "swell the gourd" help to bring life to autumn.  The opening description of "mellow fruitfulness" helps to highlight autumn's nature as a season that can facilitate and embody growth and emergence, a description that is an integral part of Keats' ode.