by John Keats
The Figure of Autumn
Odes often address an inanimate object or abstract idea directly, but they do not always portray that object/idea as a person, as Keats does. We think that autumn is a woman, because the seasons were typically personified as beautiful women in European Art. The Italian painter Botticelli, for example, depicted spring as a pregnant woman. (Check out the painting here.) In this poem, the lady autumn teams up with the sun, basks in the breeze of a granary, and takes lazy naps in a field.
- Lines 2-3: Autumn is personified for the first of many times in the poem. She and the sun whisper together like a bunch of gossipy teenage girls. But the goal is serious and necessary: they are responsible for the bounty of fruit and crops that will sustain people through the winter.
- Line 12: The speaker asks a rhetorical question to introduce a connection he believes the reader will recognize, between autumn and the harvest.
- Lines 13-15: The personification of autumn feels most explicit in these lines, where her long hair is gently lifted by the wind. "Winnowing wind" is an example of alliteration. Implicitly her hair is compared to chaff, the inedible part of a grain that blows away after the threshing process.
- Lines 16-18: Autumn has several different roles in this poem. Here she is a laborer in the fields, taking a nap after working hard to harvest the flowers with her "hook." The hook, too, is personified. It is presented as a conscious thing that chooses to "spare" the flowers, rather than as a tool that just lies idle.
- Lines 19-20: From a laborer, autumn then becomes like a "gleaner" in this simile, which compares her to the people who pick up the scraps from the field after the harvest.
- Lines 21-22: Autumn's "look," the appearance on her face while watching the cider, is an example of metonymy when the word "patient" is attached. An expression cannot itself be patient, but her look is associated with the patience of her character.
- Line 24: Autumn is addressed for the final time, as the speaker tells her not to feel jealous of spring.