Poetry Analysis: Essay One [‘B’-grading, 2000/2001]


Chris Larham’s essay on To Autumn and the Cuckoo Song (‘B’ grading, 2000/2001) can be opened in a print-friendly text document format here
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‘Examine two poems which celebrate the joys of the seasons’

{Essay CONTENTS: John Keats’ To Autumn introduction; Stanza one analysis; Stanza two analysis; Stanza three analysis; To Autumn evaluation; Cuckoo Song introduction; Perspective – tense – mood; Form; Emblem; Further mood analysis; Imagery; Cuckoo Song evaluation.}

Throughout To Autumn, John Keats celebrates the joys of the season in a variety of ways.[^]

In the first stanza, there is a definite tactile quality apparent. In foregrounding the fruit, warmth and weight of the season- particularly its early, ripening nature- Keats gives us a ‘feel’ for Autumn; “And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core”. A feeling of abundance is demonstrated through “fruitfulness”, “maturing”, and “fruit”: these key descriptions are echoed for effect – Keats is celebrating the physical landscape of the season.[^]

Moving into a lethargic blissfulness, Keats humanises the figure of Autumn through visual qualities in the second stanza. The sleepy movement of the season is celebrated, “sitting careless on a granary floor”, culminating in his reference to a joyful, contented state, induced by the opium of the season, “Drows’d with the fume of poppies”. A respectful, biblical address, “Those…”, completes the description, with the onomatopoeic “oozings” of the hours constituting the final image of a stanza which salutes the visual aspect of the season.[^]

The auditory features of Autumn are praised in stanza three, the final stanza of this ode to Autumn. Keats’ use of personification, “Where are the songs of Spring?”, foregrounds the dying of one season and the birth of another. The connections with death extend with “the soft-dying day”, and “a wailful choir”, while the wind “dies” – as in the first stanza, the landscape is again described and foregrounded. The lateness and storing qualities of the season are now important – the birds emigrating, “gathering swallows twitter in the skies”, marks the impact of Autumn with an audible image.[^]

Keats is marvelling at the balance of the season, and this is certainly reflected in his controlled use of symmetry and balance. Forms of poetic license (in his image of swallows emigrating when he says they do), hyperbole (“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!”), parallelism (“And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core”), and even the use of apostrophe in the opening three lines of the poem are included to emphasise his celebration of all things Autumn. The three similarly-sized stanzas link together seamlessly, and carry forward the different sense-based aspects of Autumn.[^]


The Cuckoo Song [penned by an anonymous poet in the thirteenth century] is another example of a poem which makes use of the seasons, specifically Summer, “Sumer”.[^]

A third person singular perspective, coupled with a present tense record of events, are the vehicles used in this jolly, celebratory poem.[^]

“Sumer is icumen in”, demonstrates that summer has arrived, and is a call for a celebration. The form of the poem enables a song to develop in one’s head when reading it – a merry, throwaway tune symbolising the ecstatic feelings of the anonymous poet.[^]

The “cuccu” is an emblem for the return of summer: when the cuckoo is singing – ‘well I’ll be blowed!’ – it’s summertime again.[^]

Mood-wise, this is a very light-hearted, short and joyous poem – you get the feeling- when reading it- that everything was alright for the poet at that time, and that this is a little bit of gratuitous fun the poet indulged in, to communicate their mood.[^]

Images of ewes bleating after lambs, “Awe bleteth after lomb”, combined with pictures of bullocks jumping and bucks eating and playing, convey the carefree nature of long, hot, hazy summer afternoons.[^]

One stanza of five lines, followed by two of four- combined with repetition of phrases such as “sing cuccu”– help shape the way the poem is read, and underlines its light-hearted intentions. The use of inversion- almost to the point of Rondel- shows the childlike symmetry of the poem.[^]

Copyright 2016-present day sharedsapience.info. Permission to use quotations from this English essay is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to Chris Larham and sharedsapience.info as authorial and website sources, respectively.

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Forty-year-old father of three wonderful children [William, Seth, and Alyssa]. Works as an Assistant Technical Officer in the Sterile Services Department of Treliske Hospital, Cornwall. Enjoys jogging, web design, learning programming languages, and supporting Arsenal FC. Obtained a BA degree in English from the University of Bolton in 2008, and has continued to gain qualifications in a diverse range of subjects thereafter.

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Posted in AS Level English [A1]

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