To Autumn is a poem written by John Keats.
The poet has described the bounty of autumn. Autumn is the season of mists and of ripening of fruits. It seems that autumn actively cooperates with the sun in bringing about the maturity of the fruits. Autumn and the sun work together for the ripening of all kinds of fruits. The wines round the edges of branches of the apple trees are bent nearly to the ground with their weight of apples. The apple trees growing in the cottage gardens are covered with moss and are weighed down with fruits. All fruits are filled with sweetness through and through. The gourd grows bigger and bigger. The hazelnuts are filled with a sweet kernel. Certain varieties of flowers also bloom in autumn. The bees suck the sweetness of these flowers. To the bees, it seems that these flowers represent a continuation of summer; the sticky cells of the honeycombs are filled to overflowing with honey, and yet autumn provides more flowers in case the bees would like to draw more sweetness from them.
The second stanza describes the occupations of autumn. Autumn is here personified as a winnower, as a gleaner, as a reaper and as a cider-presser. All these operations – winnowing, reaping, gleaning and cider pressing belong to autumn and are here supposed to be performed by women. Autumn is, therefore, seen here as a woman. First, autumn is seen as a woman doing the work of winnowing, that is separating the chaff from the grains. If anyone wants to see autumn, he may go into the fields and he will see women engaged in the winnowing operation, while the breeze ruffles the locks of their hair. This is one picture of autumn. Secondly, we can see autumn in the shape of a reaper, who has been engaged in reaping corn but who, in the course of her work, is so overcome by the sleep-inducing smell of poppies that she falls asleep, with the result that the next row of corn remains unreaped. Thirdly, autumn may be seen in the character of a gleaner. A gleaner is a woman who collects grains from the field when the crops have been removed. A gleaner may be seen walking along steadily with the weight of grains upon her head, crossing a stream. The sight of the gleaner is also symbolic of autumn. Finally, autumn may be seen in the figure of a woman who is crushing the ripe apples in the wooden press to obtain the juice from which cider is to be made. This woman sits by the cider press and watches patiently the apple juice flowing out of the press, drop by drop. The sight of the cider press is also associated with autumn. Thus in this stanza, autumn has been given a concrete shape and a concrete personality. Autumn is seen in four different guises, corresponding to the different occupations of this season.
In the third stanza, the poet describes the sounds of autumn. Spring is distinguished by its sweet songs. These sweet songs are absent in autumn. But there is no need to feel any regret on that accord. Autumn has its own peculiar music. The sounds of autumn are generally heard in the evening. When the sun is setting, a soft glow irradiates the fields from which the crop has been reaped, leaving the stumps behind. The long-drawn-out clouds in the sky look like the bars of a grate. At this time, the melancholy buzzing of the gnats is heard. The gnats fly about among the shrubs growing on the riverside. The gnats are carried upward when the wind is strong and they come downwards when the wind is feeble (or, the singing of the gnats is heard when the wind is blowing and it is not audible when the wind stops). In addition to the gnats singing in a melancholy chorus, the bleating of full-grown lambs is heard from the hills which bound the landscape. Then there is the chirping of the grasshopper. Next comes the high, bold and delicate song of the twittering of the swallows which are gathering together in large numbers for their winter migration. The gnats mourn by the river; the lambs bleat on the hill; the grasshoppers sing from the hedge; the redbreasts whistle from the garden and the swallow’s twitter in the sky. Such is the glorious music of autumn.