Why is autumn called the "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" in John Keats "Ode To Autumn"?

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Michael Otis | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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In 1819, the final year of productivity as a full-time poet, John Keats wrote five odes, one of which was the masterful "To Autumn". Arranged in three stanzas of 11 lines each, "To Autumn" pays tribute to the fecundity and fruition of the season. Stanza 1, with the first line, “Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness” is a paean to the early days of autumn when nature has fulfilled the promise of summer. The stanza nearly overwhelms the reader with the intensity of its description of ripeness. The apples trees bend with their load of fruit, while the gourd “swells” and the “hazel shells” “plump…with a sweet kernel”. In the overflowing honeycomb of the last four lines the poet implies a runaway fecundity. Indeed, the grammar itself of the Stanza 1 reinforces this theme. Intended to be read as one sentence, and scaffolded by parallel infinitives, the first stanza nevertheless lacks a verb. By this omission, the poet – by grammar and punctuation – intends to convey the promise of an endless “fruitfulness”.