A Stylistic analysis of john Keats poem “To Autumn”
The following paper presents a stylistic analysis of the well-known poem “To Autumn” penned by celebrated English poet John Keats. This paper aims at the analysis of the poem by employing the stylistic techniques equipped with the tools of linguistics at various levels of language such as phonological level, graphological level, morphological level, syntactical level and also the lexical and semantic level is being analyzed in this paper.
The paper aims to present the literal as well as the intended meaning present in the poem with the detailed structural and grammatical analysis of the poem. To autumn is ornamented with the major element of the stylistics techniques. The paper analyses the style used by Keats in the poem to depict his multidimensional themes and symbols with the help of stylistic definitions and components.
The term ‘style’ can be explained as the mode in which the language is used according to the compatibility of the context. The style of any text provides the different pattern of selections currently available. It is comprised of different choices available in the catalogue of the language.
Style used in the analysis of any text helps in maintaining the lucidity and consistency available in the particular text. Whether the content or thought of any text is static but the manner of explaining the content, use of words and phrases mostly varies according to the style implied in the text.
Style is associated with all the aspects of language, written, spoken, literary or non-literary but it is associated chiefly with the written form of the literary text. It is explained as the maximum possible variety which can be used in the process of interpreting or analyzing any text. It holds the different ways of assigning the same content. According to Leech and Short style is the dress of the thought. On extended level of the style the Stylistics is “the science of literary style” or the “art of forming good style in writing” (Leech and Short 1981).
Stylistic analysis is the study and the elucidation of the text to achieve an objective meaning by systematically analyzing the language of the text. Stylistics is the reading of style used in literary and verbal language.
Stylistics is a branch of functional linguistics which is interrelated with the concept of the style, a chief aspect of the literary text with its various forms and levels. Stylistic analysis provides an observation which is objective and scientific based on concrete quantifiable data and application in a methodical way.
Widdowson (1975) considers stylistics as an interrelated discipline which is comprised of two disciplines namely; Linguistics and Literary criticism and he considered the stylistics as mediating bridge between other disciplines of the same language. The stylistics as a separate discipline sometimes overlaps with the literary criticism, but the major differentiating point between the two disciplines is the degree of comprehensive systematic consideration given to the analysis of the language of the given text.
In the process of the Stylistic analysis of any text all the specialized technical terms and concepts of the linguistics are used to provide a systematically correct analysis equipped with computable facts and figures. It analyses the text through literary stylistic model.
The stylistics analysis can be considered as a linguistic description and the analysis of different layers of the language including the figurative language, use of the dialect, grammatical choices, sound patterns and many other aspects of the text and the language.
Stylistic analysis inevitably prompts and magnifies the process of the interpretation of the text. It provides a firm foundation to the structure of the interpretation of the text analyzed. By using a systematic analytical technique like stylistics, one can insure that the interpretation is as explicit and grounded as in facts as much as possible. It provides a view how a text contains submerged meanings on the various levels and enables the analyzer to appreciate its meaning in totality.
The use of linguistic methodology in the analysis of the prescribed text has instigated and allowed the stylistics to move one step ahead in the process of the fuller analysis of the language. The modern stylistics generates ample of its analytical powers from the investigative methods and descriptive objectives of the linguistics.
Stylistics tries to infer the actual essence of the literary text or poem. Literary Stylistic analysis of the text provides the reader with the necessary tools to understand the ‘aesthetic qualities’ of a text by sensitizing the intricacies of the literature. In general terms, the linguistic analysis of the literary language is known as the stylistics.
It can be considered as is the textual interpretation of the language of the transcript. Stylistic analysis derives the insight of the text with the help of linguistic tools. Moreover, stylistics analysis evokes and explores the functionality of the text in its context and the creativity in the process of language use.
In his book stylistics and the Teaching of Literature H.G. Widdowson defines stylistics as the “study of literary discourse from a linguistic orientation” (Widdiwson, 1975). Stylistics primarily is apprehensive with the application of the methodology of linguistics to the study of the style used in language in a particular context.
Stylistics analysis is the systematic study of the style used in the language of the text. It is used as an effective way to explore the web of the meanings present in the text and discourse. The analysis is organized on various terms and levels according to the linguistic features available in the text being analyzed.
John Keats was an eminent English poet of the nineteenth century and one of the youngest poets of the Romantic Movement. His poems made him stand in the first row of the poets like Wordsworth, P.B. Shelly, S.T. Coleridge and Tennyson.
He has written in the various forms of poetry whether it is sonnet, ode, lyrical, humorous or romantic. Some of his critically acclaimed famous poems are; Ode to Nightingale, Ode on a gracious urn, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, To Autumn and many more remarkable poems. In his poems Keats explored various themes ranging from love, joy, music, beauty, nature and also to the morality issues of human life.
The poem which is going to be analyzed through this paper is “To Autumn”, in this poem various features of the stylistics have been used brilliantly by Keats on its various levels. In a letter written to his friend John Reynolds in September 1819 Keats told about when and how he got the inspiration of writing this poem:
How beautiful the season is now, how fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it. I never liked stubble fields so much as now- aye better than the chilly green of the spring. Somehow, a stubble field looks worm in the same way that some pictures looks worm. This struck me so much in my Sunday’s walk that I composed upon it (Keats, 1819).
To autumn, considered by many scholars as the last significant poem written by john Keats is written in the form of an ode. This poem is important from literal as well as stylistics prospective. In this poem Keats addresses the season of autumn and describes the effect of the autumn on the natural surroundings of the human being.
The poem is divided into three eleven-line stanzas. In these three stanzas three different aspects of the autumn season has been presented. The ultimate progression of the autumn season, it’s beginning to mid-autumn and lastly the signaling of winter season. It presents the picture of day turning from morning to afternoon and finally into dusk.
The uniqueness of this poem lies in the way these progressions are joined together by creating a three part symmetry which generally is not common in Keats odes. Autumn here is represented metaphorically as one who conspires behind various natural activities like the ripening process of the fruits and crops.
The first stanza of the poem presents begins with explaining how autumn season plays a major role in the natural process, growth of trees, fruits, the hazels with sweet kernels, vines full of grapes and the effect of the autumn season in their maturation. The role of autumn season in association with the sun in the whole natural process by which fruits ripens and flowers comes in their full beauty after blooming. The sun and the autumn season both contrary forces come together and give the impression that the season will not end very soon.
In the second stanza Keats personifies the autumn season as a harvester and he presents autumn as a female goddess, her hairs softly flying by the wind. She seems sometimes sitting on the greens and watching the harvest of the crops and sometimes watching the cider press squeezing the juice from the apples.
The third stanza presents the contrast of the autumn season with the spring. In this part Keats treat the autumn as a physical being and suggests the autumn season not to get influenced and wonder about the songs of the spring which had gone instead of that follow his own rhythm and music. He further suggests the autumn season to listen the soothing gentle sounds of the evening, mosquitoes wail and the full grown lambs bleat in the dusk time from the hill and the sounds of willow trees being lifted and dropped by the wind with the sound of chirping crickets as a melody.
Sometimes this work of Keats is considered as the meditation of the death because to autumn has been written in the same year when massacre of Peterloo has taken place and this poem is considered as the nationalist sentiment presented metaphorically in the disguise of autumn. Many critics consider it as one of the most perfect short poems in the English language.
To autumn contains significant themes like the theme of nature in relation with the man. It contains various scenic presentations of natural landscapes, the collaboration between the humans and the nature that surrounds him and the agricultural production, a natural process organized by the human being. The theme of time is also pertinent throughout the poem.
The poem moves in a subtle way depicting the changes in the seasons and its effects. The transformation of autumn season and the slow coming of the winter are meaningfully depicted throughout the poem. Another significant theme which can be seen throughout the poem is the theme of mortality. It does not refer directly about the mortality but introduces it in a very refined manner like through the example of the oblivious bees who believes that the season of summer will never come to an end. The presentation of the scene of the dying day greatly supports the theme of mortality.
Stylistics analyses the text on the basis of objective outlines rather than subjective and impressionistic way. It investigates the relation between language and its artistic function and in order to achieve this detailed structural analysis is done with the help of certain linguistics tools.
Stylistics analysis of the poem explores the creativity used in the poem and also decodes the various structural and logical meaning on a factual and scientifically precise basis present in the poem.
The stylistics analysis of the poem can be done on various levels. The first level from where the stylistics analysis of the poem starts is the phonological level. At this level we analyses the patterns of the sound with the rising and falling tone, the way of pronunciation and the rhyming scheme present in the poem. It describes the functions of the sound within the language. This level analyses the physical properties of the speech sounds such as their functional production, auditory properties and perceptions.
The second level of the analysis is the graphological level in which the pattern of the written language is analyzed. This level analyses the visual elements of the text including the layout as well as the font size of the text.
The third level of the stylistics analysis is the morphological level which talks about the way words are constructed and used in the poem, the formation of the words with the help of various free as well as bound morphemes.
On fourth level which is the syntactical or grammatical level, the grammatical structure of the poem is analyzed, the way by which different words combine together to form the phrases and sentences with the help of certain set of rules. On fifth, lexical level the vocabulary used in the poem is analyzed, and how the independent words and idioms incline to configuration in different figurative context.
On the sixth, semantics level the literal and intended meaning of the words and sentences used in the poem were analyzed. According to Ferdinand de Saussure (1916), words have two kinds of semantic meanings; first the meanings produced by the word itself and second the literal object it refers.
To autumn is a well-structured poem written in the form of an ode. An ode is a form of lyrical poetry which expresses the emotion and this kind of poetry usually addresses some person or some other thing. As in this poem the poet is addressing to the season of autumn and treating him as a physical being. The classical form of the ode can be classified in three parts namely, the strophe, the antistrophe, and the epode.
Basically, there are three different kinds of odes known to us first kind of ode is the Pindaric ode which completely follows the form and style of pinder. Second kind of ode is the Horatian ode and it follows the principles and conventions prescribed by the great roman poet Horace. The third and final kind of ode is the irregular ode, this kind of ode contains some of the elements of the ode and at the same time this kind of ode takes liberty of experimenting and mingling the two different forms together. To autumn will come under the third form of the ode which is called irregular ode.
The first significant point which comes in light during stylistics analysis of the poem to autumn is its title itself. On first instance, one can assume the full title as ode to autumn Keats here has removed the word ‘ode’ from the title of poem unlike he has used it in his another poems of this category. He has assumed it understood in the title. With the title itself it becomes clear that the poet is not only explaining about autumn but he is addressing the autumn itself and it becomes a kind of poem being addressed to the autumn season.
At phonological level the poem to autumn, written in three stanza structure contains a variable rhyming scheme and metre. Each stanza of the poem contains eleven lines. To explain the thematic organization each eleven lined stanza can be coarsely classified into two parts. In each stanza first four lines can be considered as first part and other seven lines as another part.
The first four lines of each stanza contain an ABAB rhyming scheme. The first lines rhymes with the third line as the second line rhymes with the fourth line. The last seven lines of the first stanza rhymes in CDEDCCE scheme which is contrary to second and a third stanza which holds the CDECDDE rhyming pattern.
In the poem the precise combination of accented and unaccented syllables is generally called a metre or foot of the poem. The meter of every poem varies according to their use of stressed and unstressed syllables in each line of the poem. Some of the significant metre which is frequently used are, iambic, trochee, anapaest, and ductyl and spondee metre. The poem “To Autumn” is metered in iambic pentameter because it contains five foot in each line with each two syllable foot containing first syllable unstressed and second syllable stressed.
The alliteration is explained as the repetition of consonant sounds in the beginning of two or more than two words in the lines of the poem. In “To Autumn” the use of alliteration can be easily seen. in the first line, ‘mist’ and ‘mellow’, in the third line, ‘fill’ and ‘fruit’, and in fifteenth line, ‘winnowing’ and ‘wind’ also in twenty third line ‘songs’ and ‘spring’ all these words are showing the use of alliteration in the poem.
The poem is also filled with richly use of the various figure of speeches such as metaphor, simile, personification and antithesis. In the first paragraph, a metaphor is used, “close bosom friend of the maturing sun” in this line relationship between the autumn and the sun is established and they both are treated as identical. Another line where metaphor is used in the third paragraph of the poem is “while barred clouds bloom the soft- dying day”. In The second paragraph of the poem a simile is used, “And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep”. Here autumn is compared with the gleaner, who gathers or collects the left over grains after the end of harvesting process.
The poem is ornamented by the use of antithesis, a significant figure of speech in which completely contrasted words or phrases are used together for emphasis. “or sinking as the light wind lives or dies” (line-29).In this line two completely aspects are used together in the same sentence to create the meaning.
The poem to autumn is full of vivid use of imagery; imagery is a phrase or word that appeals straight to one or more than one senses out of five senses present in the human being. Generally there are five kinds of imagery frequently used by the poet’s namely visual imagery which is used to evoke the visual images that follows a shape and size, auditory imagery, talks about the images of sound and music, olfactory imagery related with the senses of smell, fourthly the gustatory imagery which depicts the taste image and the fifth kind of imagery is the kinesthetic imagery which is related with the senses of touch, feeling and movement. In this poem to autumn two main kinds of imagery is dominantly used namely the visual imagery and the auditory imagery.
The poem includes the visual imageries in many words and phrases like in the very first stanza “To Autumn”, “the mossed cottage trees”, “the hazal shells”, “the vines that round the thatch eves sun”, “the later flowers” who were comforting the bees by saying “ warm days will never cease”. In second stanza where autumn is personified as a physical being and also in the third stanza much visual imagery is used including, “sitting carelessly on the granary floor”, “at other times we see her”, “half-reaped”, “ twined flowers”, “gleaner”, “soft dying day”, “patient look” and many more.
To autumn is ornamented with the use of auditory imagery also like in the last stanza of the poem the music and songs of the autumn can be heard for instance, “ barred clouds bloom the soft- dying day, and touch the stubble plains with rosy-hue”(25,26). Some other examples of auditory imagery are “Wailful choir”, “full grown lambs loud least from hilly bourn” (30).
At graphological level, the poem To Autumn is consisting of three well-structured and firmly interlaced stanzas. The use of the capitalized words in the beginning of each line follows the usual pattern of a poem. The poem is very well equipped with the use of the punctuation marks at all the places where it was required. The punctuation marks like comma, colon, semi-colon, hyphen, full stop and also the sign of question mark are used in the poem to emphasize the intended meaning of the text of the poem. The question marks in the first line of both second and third stanzas are used to assume the autumn season as the physical being.
The poem to autumn is composed with the combination of various lexical items. The choices of the words made by the poet are harmonious blend of the formal, semiformal, technical as well as the informal and slang words. The diction of the Keats is largely medieval as well as classic.
The poem is tightly woven with meaning by the proper use of the parts of the speeches and also with the use of various uncommon and fascinating archaic vocabularies makes this poem distinct from Keats other poems. The antiquated words are, ‘moss’d’, ‘hath’, ‘thee’, ‘thy’, ‘thou’ ‘reap’d’, ‘swath’, ‘borne’ and ‘hast’. Keats structured this poem with the use of various monosyllabic words such as fruit, bless, round, still, touch and many more. Various words in this poem are slanted by the stress of bilabial consonants like brimm’d and clammy.
This paper tried to analyze the impersonal and objective nature of the john Keats poem to autumn. It analyzed the prominent themes, symbols and richness of audial and visual imagery present in the poem for instance how in the beginning of the first stanza the season of autumn is shown in abstract but in the very next line the richness and ripeness of the autumn is described. In the next second stanza same autumn season is personified as the beautiful physical being and the different pictures of the reaper, the gleaner and the season harvester. The last and third stanza of the poem illustrates and presents the symphony of the melodious sounds of the season and the surrounding.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
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; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while they hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook:
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozing hours by hours.
Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are thay?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue:
Then in a Wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with tremble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.