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John Keats

Ode to Autumn

Stanza 2:
Some questions to challenge you!

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:

"Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind."
  • What is a "granary floor"? (2)

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  • What happens when one "winnows"? What then would be meant by the " winnowing wind"? (4)

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  • In what way would one or could one find Autumn "sitting careless on a granary floor" or with her hair "soft-lifted by the winnowing wind"? (4)

[Need help?]

"Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies."
  • Why is there a reference to poppies within the context of this poem? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Why would Autumn be found "sound asleep" on a "half-reap'd furrow"? (2)

[Need help?]

"And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours."
  • What is a "gleaner"? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Why should Autumn have a "laden head" and why does she keep her head steady? (4)

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  • Comment on the use of the word "oozings" to describe the cider-press. (4)

[Need help?]


Is Autumn, as depicted in this Ode, presented as male or female? Be able to explain your understanding carefully. (4)

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