Life is a beautiful thing that should not be wasted. Life must be lived without warning; it is not to be taken for granted. We will never fully understand life, not even in a million years. The theme of John Keats' "To Autumn" is to enjoy life, even as you grow old and it begins to move away from you. He spreads his message through the time frame, imagery, and diction of the stanzas. To begin with, the time frame of the stanzas begins to prove the theme.
By itself, it doesn't prove the theme, but, when added with the imagery and diction, it gets the job done. The second and third proofs build off of the time frame. The time frame of the stanzas progresses through autumn and a day as a person's life does. It shows that autumn and a day are being paralleled to a person's life.
The first stanza is set in early autumn and the morning. This is shown is passages from the poem. For example, season of mists and warm days will never cease show this time setting. Season of mists prove morning because mist forms in the early morning.
Warm days will never cease proves early autumn because this is the hottest and most humid time of the year. The first stanza clearly takes place during the morning in early autumn, and those are paralleled to childhood in life. The second stanza is set in mid-autumn and the afternoon. This is evident in the poem. In example, while thy hook, gleaner, and on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep show the time frame is mid-autumn and afternoon.
While thy hook and gleaner show mid-autumn because these quotes deal with the harvest, which happens in mid-autumn. On a half-reaped furrow sound asleep proves afternoon because the furrow is half-reaped, thus half way through the day, or the afternoon, and naps are usually taken during the afternoon hours. Obviously, the second stanza is set in the afternoon during mid-autumn. Mid-autumn and afternoon compare to adulthood in life. The third stanza is set in late autumn and the evening. The proof is in the poem.
For instance, gathering swallows and hedge crickets sing prove the time frame is late autumn in the evening. Gathering swallows proves late autumn because that is the time when birds gather to migrate to warmer climates. Hedge crickets sing proves evening because crickets produce their patented sound in the evening hours. Certainly, the setting of stanza three is during the evening on a late autumn night; these go together with the elderly years of life. It is evident that the first stanza takes place during the morning in early autumn; the second stanza occurs during the afternoon in mid-autumn; and the third stanza happens in the evening in late autumn. These facts show that the poem progresses through a single day and the entire season of autumn.
This, of course, doesn't prove the entire theme by itself, but it does show that life is progressing. Life is paralleled with a day and autumn; however, more proof is needed for the entire theme. Next, the imagery of the stanzas builds off of the time frame, to further prove the theme. As before, the imagery itself doesn't prove the theme, nor does it when added with the time frame of the stanzas. The imagery starts out very tactile; then fades out to more visual words.
In the last paragraph, the imagery fades away even more to auditory imagery. The fading away of the imagery compares to life fading or slipping away. When you add this to the first proof, life is slipping away as life progresses. The first stanza has very tactile imagery; it makes you feel like you are in the poem. For instance, bend, fill, swell, plump, and clammy show this tactile imagery. The words are perfect examples because, if you think about these words, you have to touch something to get an understanding of these words.
As an illustration, to bend something, you have to touch it; you also have to touch an object to fill it. Moreover, a person has to touch something to get a feel for the words swell, plump, and clammy. If you didn't feel the object, you would never get a full understanding of the word. Subsequently, the first stanza is full of tactile imagery. When you compare it to life, the tactile imagery is like childhood; you are very active as a child, just like the imagery. The second stanza possesses visual imagery; the poem shows it.
In example, seen, seek, and watch est are words that show visual imagery. The words show visual imagery because in order to act out the words, you must use your eyes. Consequently, the second stanza is visually appealing stanza, and it parallels adulthood in life. As you get older, life starts to slip away, just as the imagery does in this poem. Tactile imagery is the most active, while visual is the second most active.
This relationship proves that life is starting to slip away. The third stanza contains auditory imagery, and it is evident in the poem. For example, songs, music, wailful choir, loud bleat, sing, treble, and whistles all show this auditory imagery. All of these words have something to do with singing because they are all either a form or a product of singing, which pertains greatly to sound. Therefore, the third stanza is full of auditory imagery, and it stands for the elderly years of life. Life was beginning to slip away in the second stanza, and now life is falling out of grasp.
Auditory imagery is the least active of the three types of imagery used; thus proving that life is slipping further away. It is obvious that the first, second, and third stanzas contain tactile, visual, and auditory imagery, respectively. The imagery is symbolic of life. Life slips away during a person's lifetime just as the imagery does in this poem. As said before, this proof builds off of the first one, and the last one will build off of these two. In the first proof, life is progressing; in the second, life is slipping away.
When you put them together, you have a person progressing through life, and as he gets older, his life is starting to fall away. Finally, the diction of the stanzas proves the theme. It builds off of the first two proofs to prove every angle of the theme. The diction is the most important part, or the keystone of the proof.
The diction starts out very active in the first stanza, but switches to passive in the second. You would think that the third stanza is even more passive; instead, Keats uses in mixed diction. This symbolizes, when added with the first two proofs, that life starts out in childhood, where you are very active and life is close to you. Then you move to adulthood, where life begins to slip away from you, and you become more passive in life.
As you progress to the elderly years, life slips even farther away, but instead of being very passive, Keats wants you to be active even as death nears you. The first stanza is full of active diction. It is shown in the poem. For example, bend, fill, swell, plump, and o'er brimmed show this activeness. These are active words because all of these words involve motion or movement, which is active. As a result, the first stanza uses active diction to symbolize the activity of childhood.
The second stanza contains passive diction. The proof is in the poem. In example, sitting, sound asleep, drowsed, patient, and oozing hours by hours are evidence of the passiveness of the stanza. The examples are passive because they involve sleeping, very slow motion, or no motion at all, thus passive events. Therefore, the second stanza shows that people become more passive in adulthood. The third stanza has a mix of both active and passive diction.
The examples are in the poem. For instance, songs, bloom, touch, full-grown, loud bleat, sing, whistles, and twitter are the active half of the stanza, while soft-dying, wailful, mourn, sinking, dies, and sallow's are the passive half. The first set of words is active because they involve motion or sound, thus giving them that feeling of activity. The second set is passive because they are words of sadness, death, or slow movement, which all show passivity.
Consequently, the third stanza has a mix of both active and passive diction, which compares to the elderly years in life when we should not give up on life, but instead stay active until we die. It is clear that the diction of the stanzas symbolically tells us to live our life to its fullest. The first stanza contains active imagery, while the second uses passive. The third stanza is expected to contain even more passive diction, but instead uses a mix of both active and passive. The active diction is used a little bit more.
The diction in the third stanza is what makes this poem so great. If you add this proof to the first two, you get life slipping away as it progresses, with the individual being active even as he is dying. In other words, the person is enjoying his life as it slips into death's hands, which is the theme of the poem. The theme of John Keats' "To Autumn" is to live your life actively until darkness consumes your body. The time frame, imagery, and diction of the stanzas prove this.
The time frame shows that life is progressing, while the imagery is paralleled to life being taken away from the individual. The diction proves that the person is active during childhood, passive during adulthood and slightly active during the elderly years of life. The proofs clearly show what the theme of the poem is, proving every part of it thoroughly. This was a wonderfully written poem, and it gives a great message that everyone should learn and live by. Kaveh SojoodiJan, 2005.