by John Keats
To Autumn Theme of Mortality
Autumn is frequently used as a symbol in literature for old age, the time before death, symbolized by winter. "To Autumn" avoids any super-obvious references to death, but we do get some subtle ones, like the oblivious bees that think the summer will last forever, or the "hook" that spares the poppy flowers from their inevitable end. As the day begins to "die" in the final section, the entire landscape contributes to the song of mourning.
Questions About Mortality
- Why do we tend to automatically associate autumn with death? Does the poem make this association anywhere?
- Are the animals in the last four lines part of the "choir" of mourning suggested in line 27, or is their music of a different kind?
- Do you think the personified figure of autumn is immortal, like one of the Greek gods?
- How does Keats show the connection and continuity between the seasons?
Chew on This
The concept of death can only be applied to the natural elements in the poem by projecting human experience onto them.
The mysterious and reflexive noises made by the animals in the last four lines subvert the speaker's anxiety about the death of the day.