Discussion Topic

The theme and central idea of the poem "To Autumn"

Summary:

The theme and central idea of "To Autumn" revolve around the natural cycle of growth, maturation, and eventual decline. The poem celebrates the beauty and abundance of the autumn season, highlighting the harmonious relationship between humans and nature, and reflecting on the passage of time and the inevitability of change.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the theme of "To Autumn"?

Ostensibly, Keats's "To Autumn" is a paean of praise to this most inspirational of seasons. But, as is always the case with Keats, there is considerably more to this than meets the eye—a richer, more complex vision lurking beneath the opulent pleasures of nature, bursting to shine forth.

A recurring theme in Keats's odes is the fragility and transience of the natural world. And we encounter it once again here. Keats delights in providing us with lush descriptions of this "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness," while at the same time recognizing that the season, like each one of us, must one day pass, no matter how beautiful it is. But this shouldn't cause worry; new life will emerge from the old in a never-ending cycle of death and rebirth:

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.
The season is drawing to a close, but nature is blossoming into full maturity as it points toward the onset of winter. The lambs are now "full grown," and the swallows are starting to gather in the skies.
Nature is so remarkably fruitful in all its variety. At times, it threatens to overwhelm us with the sheer scale of its fecundity. Man is the junior partner here; in his relationship to nature it is the world of the animals, the clouds, and the sweet, luscious fruit that dominates. In the midst of this endless cycle of seasonal change, there is nothing we can do but stand and admire. We must simply sit back and, in our reverie, enjoy the joyous bounties of nature, our sadness at their passing tinged with a realization that they will one day return.
Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the central idea of the poem "To Autumn"?

Keats is using personification throughout this poem as he compares the changes in the seasons to the relationship between a woman (autumn) and a man (the sun). In this poem, Keats is looking back at the history behind "her" and recognizing the changes that are heralding the approach of more changes. While not directly addressed, the passage from birth through life and on to death is present throughout the poem.

Autumn is involved with "the maturing sun" in creating all the natural fruits that develop during spring, "conspiring" together to "fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; to swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells with a sweet kernel."

Throughout the summer, autumn often enjoys the produce of her nature. She sleeps with "the fume of poppies" as her hair is gently blown "by the winnowing wind."

As autumn progresses, however, things change. The third stanza speaks of "barred clouds" and "a wailful choir" of gnats that "mourn." Spring's lambs are now "full-grown" and must now appreciate the song of autumn; the season of spring is past and done. The approach of winter, and its unspoken association with death, is part of the natural cycle portrayed throughout the poem.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the central idea of the poem "Ode To Autumn" by John Keats?      

In 1918, this is what Keats wrote of the poem:

"How beautiful the season is now--How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather--Dian skies--I never liked stubble-fields so much as now--Aye better than the chilly green of the spring. Somehow, a stubble-field looks warm--in the same way that some pictures look warm. This struck me so much in my Sunday's walk that I composed upon it."

"Ode To Autumn" is no mystery it is what it is: a poem written in praise of autumn. Autumn in its fullness, autumn in its ripeness, autumn in its satisfying, still warm beauty.

One can certainly think of autumn as but an end to summer and the harbinger of the cold, desolate months of winter. But Keats sees autumn as a fruition, the bountiful result of the promise of rapid growth that began in the spring and went all the way through summer. Autumn, in the poem is summer matured, summer's result.

Listen to this line:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun

and this:

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn

Keats does not see autumn as a time of withering, a time of fall; he sees it as life at its height.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on