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John Keats, Going Against The Grain: Changing Perceptions Of Inspiration In Music

2010 words - 9 pages

”To Autumn” is an ode written by John Keats on the 19th of September 1819. While walking near Winchester along a river, Keats became inspired to write the poem. The Rest of his other odes were completed in the spring of 1819. John died on the 23rd of February 1921 at the age of 25, just a year after the release of “To Autumn”. However, throughout his life he inspired many poets, but most notably Percy Shelly. In mourning, he wrote the elegy “Adonais” for Keats.”To Autumn “is his final poem and many have said it is his best. Keats use of imagery takes the reader on an adventure through the scenes and sounds of autumn. He achieves this by his use language, imagery, tone and structure. This is ...view middle of the document...

“(184) Thus, the reader gets the feeling that the speaker is praising autumn and shunning spring. However, this poem is a dedication to autumn, because it was inspired by autumn. This is evident by Keats’ letter to his friend J.H. Reynolds. He writes,” never liked stubble-fields so much as now—Aye better than the chilly green of the spring.” (Yanez 184) Consequently, the speaker is also identified as Keats himself. Hence with the aid of the images of ripening fruit and harvesting, he transports us to a much simpler more and serene period in time. Thus his tone throughout the poem is very comforting. However, he mocks spring in the third stanza by asking a rhetorical question, “Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they? (line 23) Thus, we see he challenges spring to inspire him, the way autumn does. His calming tone returns as he continues to praise autumn, when he says, “Think not of them, thou hast they music too” (line 24).
It appears as though autumn inspires depressing music, because one associates autumn with darkness and coldness. Adding to this belief is Keats’s choice of words in describing the sounds in autumn. He use words like, “soft- dying day” (line 25), “wailful choir” and” small gnats mourning” (line 27). These words definitely invoke a feeling of loss and sadness. However, the true meaning is concealed causing the theme to change. Keats’s previous odes were written in the spring of 1819, thus we see spring became his muse then. So, it seems feasible that the speaker in “To Autumn” is feeling inspired by autumn. After the completion of his “Spring Odes”, Keats fell into financial, personal and health difficulties. Thus, we see the speaker is Keats and because of these problems he had difficulty feeling inspired. So, it becomes clear that the day he walked past the river in Winchester, autumn became his inspiration.

The message in this poem is that autumn is associated with death, but only on the surface. In contrast, one can find beauty and inspiration in sorrow, death because the end result is rebirth. Thus we realise that this ode has a concealed meaning. This can be seen by the structure of “To Autumn”, because its form is that of an ode. Similarly it is in Iambic pentameter like Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian urn” and Ode to a Nightingale.” The meaning is hidden in the form. The form to consist of three stanzas of eleven lines each. In contrast, the above mentioned two odes are made up of eight stanzas, consisting of ten lines each. As Yanez noted, “Keats’s To Autumn chooses to conceal its true meaning under a deceptive appearance. That is why structure reflects a very elaborate model.” (186 -187) However, the structure shows Keats’ curious personality, by experimenting with various forms. This idea is further emphasised by the title which intentionally excludes the word “ode”.

Through understanding Keats’s history one can truly understand his true intention behind the autumn ode. The manner in which he personifies...

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