What is the significance of John Keats' title "To Autumn"?

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In the poem "To Autumn," Keats suggests that the song of the autumn season is solemn and somber.

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This poem by John Keats, one of the most well-known Romantic poets, is in the form known as an ode, which is a type of poem that is usually intended to celebrate a particular person or thing. The textbook definition is usually a variation of the following: "a lyric poem in the form of an address to a particular subject, often elevated in style or manner and written in varied or irregular meter."

The title of this ode indicates the poem is dedicated to the season of autumn, and Keats writes a very lofty and moving ode to this season. Keats could have created any number of possible titles, but keeping it so simple and yet so wide open (as opposed to naming it after the month in which he was inspired to write it, or after a particular image or idea) allows the reader to meditate upon the entire season of autumn, its warm beginnings, journey through abundance and harvest, and then to its beginning of dormancy in preparation for winter. The imagery suggests humans are deeply tied to this season, as it embodies both fullness and life, as well as decay and death, in the sights and sounds of the cycles of nature. By giving the poem this title, Keats encourages readers to allow themselves to be as moved as he is by the beauty of this season, almost as if it is a love song or an admired person who deserves to be honored.

Keats crafted one of the most well-loved poems on autumn. It is a very sensual poem, with imagery that conjures sounds, tastes, smells, and textures, as well as visuals. The poem is the basis for the titles of the series of very popular "Sandman" graphic novels by Neil Gaiman, the first of which is called "Season of Mists," the first line of Keats's poem. In this way, Gaiman's work is a sort of ode to Keats's poem, which shows the relevance and significance of Keats' work centuries after he lived.

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What is the theme of "To Autumn" by Keats?

In "To Autumn" Keats accepts the passing of this most radiant of seasons with calm and equanimity. However beautiful the luscious bounties of nature on display may be, he knows that they will soon pass, for winter is on its way. Yet at the same time, the imminent prospect of seasonal change does not upset him in the slightest. For he knows, as do we all, that autumn will come round once more when the time is ripe. And then, yet again, the poetic eye will behold a scene of "mists and mellow fruitfulness."

As with many of Keats's poems, the description of nature in "To Autumn" is both resolutely earthly, and yet at the same time filled with a transcendence that hints at another world entirely. It is the interaction between these two different, yet complementary worlds, that provides the poem's thematic basis.

It is the very transcendence of autumn that explains why Keats accepts its imminent transition to the harshness of winter with such remarkable composure. The turning of the seasons predates man's time on earth, and will continue long after Keats and everyone else has shuffled off this mortal coil. Keats revels in his lush, sensuous descriptions of the joys of nature. But he is not simply engaged in painting pretty word pictures. Keats's notion of beauty is eternal; it is unchanging and pure; and the fruits of nature, though prone to inevitable death and decay, partake of this higher beauty.

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What is the theme of "To Autumn" by Keats?

The theme of "To Autumn" is the transitory quality of nature.

In one of the marvelous letters written by Keats to friends, he explained that he composed "To Autumn" because

Somehow a stubble plain looks warm--in the same way that some pictures look warm--this struck me so much on my Sunday's walk, that I composed upon it.

The three stanzas of Keats's ode depict this tempered warmth of Autumn with its own beauty, although like the other seasons it is transitory.

In the first stanza Autumn has "conspired" with Summer, its "close-bosomed friend," a personification with suggests the mating process since fruit is then produced. Then, in the second stanza, the bounty of nature is harvested and Autumn sleeps after all her work, her

hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind....Drowsed with the fume of poppies....

Finally, in the third stanza Keats underscores the importance of the role of Autumn and harvest time: "thou hast thy music too." For, there is a ground choir of gnats that "mourn among the river sallows," along with the robins, grasshopper, and crickets, who sing while the"twittering swallows" gather in the sky. These creatures express the melancholy in delight which Keats often felt. Autumn is the most bountiful of seasons, rich in its fruitfulness and the music of its sounds; however, winter does approach, signaled by the gathering swallows in the skies. Like all seasons and all life, it is temporal.   

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What does Keats suggest about the song of the autumn season in "To Autumn"?

In the final stanza of the poem, the speaker describes the song or "music" of autumn. He describes this music as comprising the "wailful choir" of "small gnats mourn[ing]," the bleating of "full-grown lambs," the "treble soft" song of "hedge-crickets," the "whistles" of "red-breast" robins, and the "twitter[ing] of "gathering swallows."

The gnats produce a "wailful choir" to "mourn" for the loss of the summer. Their song is like a funeral song. The implication is thus that their song, and thus the song of autumn, is slow and sad. Added to this, the "bleat[ing]" of the "full-grown lambs" implies a fearful sound, as if the lambs (or sheep as they would be fully grown) are crying out for help. Perhaps they fear the coming winter.

The next addition to the music of autumn is the "treble soft" song of the "hedge-crickets." The fact that the song is "treble soft" ostensibly suggests a more positive, lighter aspect to the music, as the word "treble" indicates the higher range of musical notes. This impression, however, is undercut when we consider that robins typically sing at sunset, as the day is turning into night. The suggestion here is thus the suggestion of an impending darkness, compounding the impression of a music which is mournful and solemn.

The final sound to contribute to the music of autumn is the sound of the "gathering swallows" twittering. This twittering signals a farewell, as the swallows are likely gathering in order to migrate south to escape the winter months. The twittering thus suggests the onset of these winter months and so adds to the somber, solemn tone of the autumnal music.

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