To Autumn – A Proclamation of Life and Hope
The poem "To Autumn" is an amazing piece of work written by one of the greatest poets of all time, John Keats. From a simple reading, the poem paints a beautiful picture of the coming season. However, one may wonder if there is more to the poem than what the words simply say. After it is studied and topics such as sound, diction and imagery are analyzed, one can clearly say that Keats used those techniques to illustrate the progression of death, and to show that there is still life at the end of life.
From the very beginning of "To Autumn,” sound appears to be an important aspect of Keats’s technique. When the words are studied, there is an even mixture of loud and soft sounds. Some soft sounding words – words that use consonant sounds that are soft when spoken such as an s -- include mists, close, son, bless, mossed, and trees. There are also the hard sounding words – words that use consonant sounds that are loud when spoken such as a b or t -- like maturing, round, thatch, and budding. The words do not appear to be randomly used, but they seem to have a pattern: the hard and soft sounds come in pairs. In the second line, we see, "close bosom friend of the maturing sun.” Close and bosom go together, with close being loud and soft with the hard c and soft s, and bosom being loud and soft with the b and s. The words “maturing sun” are not placed together haphazardly either. Maturing is a very hard word with the m and t sound; sun is a very soft word, beginning with an s. Also, in the third line Keats says, “Conspiring with him how to load and bless.” Autumn is conspiring . . . to load (loud due to the p and d sounds) and bless (soft due to the double s sound). Again, Keats pairs a loud and a soft sound. This gives the whole stanza a generally loud, lively sound with a quiet hiss in the background. This tells of the great bounty of the current time, but adds a quiet feeling to it, such as what Keats was trying to communicate -- that death or a time of quiet is approaching.
The second stanza has mainly quiet sounds. With words such as oft, store, swath, seeks, careless, soft-lifted, and drowsed, the whole stanza is filled with soft s and w sounds. This makes the stanza very sleepy and slow but with a warm comfortable feeling. What is most brilliant is that he writes about sleep and then uses words that sound like sleep to describe it. That makes the reader really experience how he is explaining death with sounds, not just words. This change from stanza one also goes along with the progression of life. It started out loud and young, and now has begun to soften, such as life does when one grows older or nears death.
The third stanza somewhat follows the course set down by the previous two stanzas, but it also does something surprising. One may predict that the third stanza becomes softer still, following the progression, yet it does not quite do so. ...