‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’. How far and in what ways does Keats communicate this belief in his odes.Emotion was the key element of any Romantic poet, the intensity of which is present in all of Keats poems. Keats openly expressed feelings ignoring stylistic rules which suppressed other poets.Keat’s poems display a therapeutic experience, as many of his Odes show a sense of struggle to accept, and a longing to search for an emotion which he could feed off for his eternity.
As romantics emphasised beauty in order to replace the lack of religion. The quote ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’, I believe tormented him ever since he wrote ‘Endymion’, the Odes to be discussed are hence almost a progression of thought and understanding of his own beliefs.‘Ode to Autumn’ is perhaps the greatest of nature poems written , and I can only agree when Cedric Watts wrote that it is a ‘richly resourceful yet alert and unsentimental’. Keats creates a sumptuousness which reflects the beauty he has found in Autumn. The intonation within the first stanza is almost of excitement, as if this beauty has suddenly unleashed itself onto his senses, its effect is more powerful than the drug induced mood in ‘Nightingale’. The first line introduces us to the personified autumn. The exclamatory phrase ‘mellow fruitfulness’ heightens the syntax tone immediately and prepares the reader for a stanza rich in tactile and visual images which intensify this opening.
The beauty of autumn is emphasised through phrases like; ‘ripeness to the core’, ‘swell the gord’, ‘ o’verbrimmed their clammy cells’. Keat’s use of the adjective ‘plump’ as a verb excels this ‘ripeness’ and together intensifies the beauty, which is emphasised through the repetition of ‘more’ and ‘still more’. Keats almost forces his subject at us.The central stanza is almost a ‘breathing space’ for the reader, to interact with the poem. Keats creates a hypnotic mood almost lethargic. Keats achieves this through his language. The use of ‘carless’ and ‘soft-lifted’.
The alliteration of ‘winnowing winds’ and the assonance of ‘sound asleep’, almost attack our aural senses and draws us deep into an almost dream like state: ‘Winnowing wind, or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep, Drowsed with the fume of poppies’.The use of ‘drowsed’ is deliberate and for emphasis, to achieve this tiredness, as does the sensual smells of ‘poppies’.The punctuation emphasises the intonation. The pause after the ‘poppies’ is symbolic as it arouses us and tempts us to smell and hence we are enticed by the drug. The pause after ‘ grannery floor’, reflects the carelessness mentioned and because it’s a natural process to pause after sitting.
Keats is helping the reader to visualise Autumn’s movements through the stanza. In this stanza the syntax is longer unlike the first verse. In the line ‘ or by a cider-press, with patient look’ Keats creates balance with the pause, which implies order and emphasises the patience, almost reflecting Keats studied view of Autumn.The lethargic mood is increased in the second stanza , in the final line with: ‘last oozings hours by hours’, as the vowel sounds soften the syntax, and the repetitive ‘hours’ almost drags the sentence along.The third stanza’s sudden questions ‘where are th songs of spring? Ay, where are they?’ are too forceful and abrupt from the mood set in the previous stanza, it is almost annoying.
It could almost be read as Keats projecting his thoughts, as if he was engulfed in Autumn’s beauty that he forgot ‘spring’. I believe Keats challenges us. We are so taken in with Autumn as he hypnotises our thoughts, that he deliberately breaks our concentration as he too has realised that seasons change and we should change with them. True, spring has its songs, but so does autumn! Keats realises that this beauty will not last forever, as seasons change, but this change brings new beauty.The onomatopoeia in the third stanza instigates a more active tone , the increasing rhythm almost represents a celebration, for the ‘Wailful choir the small gnats mourn’ is contrasted with the ‘loud bleat’,’hedge-crickets sing’, ‘redbreast whistles’