‘To Autumn’ is one of the four-season poems that Blake wrote, the others being ‘To Spring,’ ‘To Summer,’ and ‘To Winter’. It was Blake’s intention for these four poems to be read together as a set. They are all fairly straightforward, and each meant to evoke emotions and memories connected to that particular season. This poem shows off Blake’s skill in creating very clear tones, moods, and atmospheres in his work. Readers cannot help but walk away from this poem feeling as though they’ve experienced a beautiful autumn day.
Explore To Autumn
Summary of To Autumn
In the three stanzas of this piece, Blake creates a beautiful atmosphere of the season. He brings in the personified form of Autumn to sing a song of the season and bring joy to everyone listening. It’s quite clear that the speaker relishes this time of year and does not see it as a time of sorrow, as many other poets and their personas do. Blake asks the reader to listen to Autumn’s song and to imagine all the sights and sounds that he is alluding to.
Themes in To Autumn
Throughout this piece, William Blake engages with themes of joy, change, and peace. The scene depicted in ‘To Autumn’ is a very peaceful one. His speaker is seeking out the joy of Autumn’s song and the ability to take in that joy for himself. His happiness is influenced by the smells of the fruit, the sight of the changing leaves, and the general feeling in the air. Blake does a wonderful job of conveying these feelings to the reader through his imagery and creating an overwhelming atmosphere of peace that should consume the reader by the end of the poem. Inevitably, the fall season brings up the central theme of change or transformation. This is a season that usually associated with a time period between the bounty of summer and the difficulties that winter is sure to present. This is something that Blake embraces in the poem.
Structure and Form
‘To Autumn’ by William Blake is a three-stanza poem that is separated into sets of six lines, known as sestets. These sestets, unusually for Blake, do not follow a specific rhyme scheme although there are several examples of half-rhyme. For instance, “sit” and “rest” at the ends of lines two and three of the first stanza. The lines are all of the similar lengths with the majority containing ten. Blake varies his use of punctuation and line breaks throughout the piece. Some lines end with very clear examples of enjambment while others have strong end-punctuation.
Blake makes use of several literary devices in ‘To Autumn’. These include but are not limited to examples of alliteration, caesura, and enjambment. The first of these, alliteration, is concerned with the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of words. For example, “blood” and “Beneath” in lines one and two fo the first stanza and “Sing” and “son” in line six of the first stanza.
Enjambment is an important formal device that is importantly used to control line breaks and moments of drama within poetry. For example, the transition between lines two and three of the first stanza as well as lines three and four of the second stanza.
There are several examples of caesurae in this short poem. It can be seen when lines are broken with punctuation. For example, like three of the first stanza. It reads: “Beneath my shady roof; there thou mayst rest”. Another example can be found in line two of the second stanza: “The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins”.
Analysis of To Autumn
O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou mayst rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.
In the first stanza of ‘To Autumn,’ the speaker begins by addressing “Autumn” with an apostrophe. This is a literary device that is concerned with speaking to objects, forces, or anything or person that cannot hear or answer. The word “O” often indicates an example of an apostrophe.
He speaks to autumn, drawing the reader’s attention to the cloud sone can see during that season, as well as the “fruit”. Blake pays a lot of attention to the atmosphere that is very particular to autumn. He asks it to stay around for a while so that he might smoke his pope and tune himself to autumn’s “jolly voice”. It’s clear here that Blake does not see Autumn as a time or mourning as some poets do.
There is a good example of alliteration in the second to the last line with “daughters” and “dance”. This is yet another example of the joyous atmosphere that Blake feels is connected to the season.
“The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.
In the second stanza of ‘To Autumn,’ the speaker adds, in quotes the “lusty song of fruits and flowers” that he introduced in the first stanza. These beautiful, image-rich, and transitionally poetic lines, Blake describes what it is like to live through a wonderful autumn season. These are the first lines of the song that “jolly Autumn” sang as he sat.
Blake takes the reader through the blossoms of flowers, allusions to Christianity, and the other seasons. He depicts the season using personification as well as other techniques.
“The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.
In the third stanza of ’To Autumn,’ the speaker, who is still at this Autumn, concludes his song. He mentions joy yet again and creates images such as “the smells / Of fruit” that encourage readers to use all their senses to envision the scene.
In the fourth line of this stanza, Blake concludes Autumn’s song. The personified vision of Autumn flees the scene at the end of the poem, leaving behind the “golden” colors of the season, from leaves to fields.
Readers who enjoyed Blake’s ‘To Autumn,’ should also consider reading his other three-season poems: ‘To Spring,’ ‘To Summer,’ and ‘To Winter’. These poems, as well as others by Blake, such as ‘The Divine Image’ and ‘The Lamb’ are all wonderful examples of his work. The latter is one of his best-known short poems while the former describes the four divine virtues that humankind should aspire to and can achieve. Some other interesting poems that are related to ‘To Autumn’ are ‘Autumn Song’ by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and ‘To Autumn’ by John Keats.