‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’: John Keats wrote many a memorable and arresting opening line in his short life, but his opening to his great poem ‘To Autumn’, one of his finest odes, is perhaps his most resonant of all. On one level a straightforward evocation of the season of autumn, ‘To Autumn’ (or ‘Ode to Autumn’ as it is sometimes known) is also a poem that subtly reflects the early nineteenth-century context in which it was written. Such contemporary allusions and references require closer analysis, but before we get to them, here is John Keats’s great autumnal poem.
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;
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