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John Keats

Ode to Autumn

Stanza 1:
More challenging questions!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 18 January 2014
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"To Autumn" is regarded as Keats's best poem, written with graphic clarity just before his death.

He personifies the season, dressed in its rich autumn colours and alive with life and mellow vibrancy. Everything is maturing now.

The fruits on the trees are at their sweetest, the wine is oozing with heady tranquillity. Everywhere the birds and the insects are enriching the countryside with their melody.


John Keats was born in London in 1795, the son of a hostler. Both his parents died while he was still young -- his mother of tuberculosis. He was thereafter brought up by his grandmother who quickly made him an apprentice physician.

He was still only in his late teens when he discovered that he too had caught TB and his younger brother who was in his care soon died of it. In order to escape the disease, Keats moved to the sunnier and drier climate of Italy.

There was no escape for him, however, and the poet died in 1821. He was then just 25 years of age. He nevertheless bequeathed us a gargantuan amount of poetry written with an amazing maturity for one so young.

Keats wrote this Ode one autumn evening in 1819. It has been said that he could not focus on his writing because somebody nearby was disturbing his thoughts by practising on the violin. The poet went out for a walk and, inspired by the autumn atmosphere, returned to write this poem.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

"SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun."
  • In what way can the sun be referred to as the "maturing sun"? (5)

[Need help?]

  • Explain how the poet's use of imagery enhances the emotive value of these lines. (4)

[Need help?]

"Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run."
  • What image does the word "conspiring" evoke? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Who is conspiring with whom? What they are conspiring to do? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What image is evoked with the words "load and bless"? (4)

[Need help?]

"To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel."
  • What image of autumn is the poet attempting to portray? What words suggest that image? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Some transcriptions of this poem use the words "mossed cottage-trees" rather than "moss'd". Is there any difference between the word "mossed" and "moss'd"? (4)

[Need help?]

"To set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees."
  • Parenthesis is used in these two line. Identify it and explain the poet's purpose in using it. (4)

[Need help?]

"For Summer has o'erbrimm'd their clammy cells."
  • What is the implication of the word "o'erbrimm'd" in the context of this stanza? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Explain the use of the apostrophe in the word "o'erbrimm'd". (4)

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