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Symbol Analysis

A "pastoral" poem is inspired by shepherds, shepherdesses, and other forms of simple life in rural settings. Pastorals commonly feature natural scenery so rich and vivid that you could drown in it. Like the ode, pastoral artworks are a staple of Ancient Greece, so it's natural that Keats paired the two together. As autumn traipses through the landscape, we're treated to a full range of traditional images of the joys of the English countryside.

  • Lines 4-5: Pastoral artworks often show how nature and humans coexist within a landscape. Here the vines run around the eves of thatched houses, and mossy trees grow next to cottages.
  • Line 24: The reference to music could allude to the tradition in which shepherds and other outdoorsy-types played rustic music on a lyre or pipe. Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" features a musician playing a pipe, for example. Here Keats uses "music" as a metaphor for the harmonies of the scenery.
  • Line 27: Gnats are an unusual choice to include in the symphony of autumn's metaphorical "music," but Keats describes them so well that we don't notice an incongruity. In this extension of the metaphor about the "dying" of daylight in line 25, the gnats are the metaphorical chorus that "wails" in mourning at the funeral.
  • Lines 30-33: Lay it on us, Keats. He decides to go all-in with the pastoral imagery, picking out some of the genre's most recognizable images: lambs on the hillside, crickets in the hedge, and birds in the garden.

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