crop of the first two lines of 'To Autumn' from the original manuscript image
'To Autumn' is perhaps Keats's most famous and beloved work. It is considered the perfect embodiment of poetic form, intent, and effect. It was written in Winchester on 19 September 1819 and first published in 1820. Keats described the feeling behind its composition in a letter to his friend Reynolds, 'Somehow a stubble plain looks warm - in the same way that some pictures look warm - this struck me so much in my sunday's [sic] walk that I composed upon it.'
Click here to view both pages of the original manuscript image of 'To Autumn'.
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 thy 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 oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
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 treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
to Keats: Poetry
Atlantic Unbound: Soundings: 'To Autumn'
As part of The Atlantic Monthly's 'Soundings' feature, four writers recite 'To Autumn'.
There is also an introductory essay by Sven Birkerts.