It is “summer” who has “o’erbrimmed” their clammy cells”. The ‘m’ sound of the last line adds to the humming effect of the blissfully ignorant bees. The tactile quality of “clammy cells” of the bees sounds dank and damp. The abundant and excessive quality so freely welcomed by the reader now begins to become slightly oppressive. The mood and atmosphere of the poem changes in the second stanza. The richness of the season’s creativity and vitality in the previous stanza gives to a more docile, passive, indolent feeling.
It opens with a rhetorical question, “who hath not seen thee amid thy store? ” This is used to draw the reader into the poem and into the wonder of autumn. Therefore it becomes a universal experience as well as a personal one. There is a sense that time has moved on. The crops and fruit so richly described in stanza one have been harvested, suggested by “store”. Lethargic An imaginary and mythical figure of autumn enters the poem at this stage. Stanza one deals predominantly with the effect of nation and her fruition, with little regard to the human world.
The exception being the, “vines that round the thatch-eves”, which is not a natural occurrence bur a product of ordered rooting. While stanza two sees the domestication of nature by man. This deified form of the season is shown in several appropriate autumnal locales and positions. The carefree mood of the stanza is enforced by the image of autumn, “sitting careless on a granary floor,” The coarse texture of words like “granary” and “floor” mirrors the sound giving at once a tactile a well as aural experience.
The next image gives the impression of weariness and suggests tiredness. Autumn has taken up the role of a reaper who has been toiling, but is now tired, leaving it “half-reap’d”. The heavy syllables in “furrow” and “sound” produces a soporific effect, which leads to the apposite image of figure “asleep”. As with “clammy”, in “oozings” Keats once again uses diction, which conveys both pleasant and unpleasant sensations simultaneously. The word insinuates a sweet abundance, but also syrupy sickness, which is quite unsettling. The images within this stanza are motion less.
They have a photographic and pictorial quality about them. This creates a mood of serenity, where the activity ends and the time for reflection begins. This reflection is realised in the final stanza. By opening with a double rhetorical question, “where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they? ” Keats considers the transience of all things natural. The elongated vowel sounds in the second question suggest a nostalgic and almost melancholic feeling. The “Ay” can be read as a lamented sigh to signify a regret for what has passed.
The vitality of youth and rebirth and the sensual qualities of springtime now seem a fading memory. However, in the next line he rejects this nostalgia and disregards the more celebrated “songs of spring”, reassuring the waning autumn that her “music” is no less equal or inferior in beauty. The implicit authorial intrusion indicates passion felt by the poet in needing to defend autumn. The inclusion of the “music” of the seasons in the introducing this stanza establishes the principal sensory appeal for it: aural imagery, which enables the reader to hear what is being described.
The early morning “mist” of stanza one has clearing by the “maturing sun” and through the passing of time indicated by the repetition of “hours” we find ourselves with the “rosy hue” of the sunset. Line 25 has a paradoxical and almost enigmatic quality, centred “bloom”. The spring-like nostalgia of the word, which begins life, is placed besides an image of culmination, the “soft-dying day”. This creates a tension, which constructs doubts within the reader as to the true feeling of the speaker in the poem.
The harvest has been collected and the hyphenated description of stubble-plains” has a tinge of sadness and loneliness. This image of alienation in coloured by the twilight of setting sun, which produces a “rosy hue”. This sadness is vocalised by the “wailful choir” of “small gnats” as they “mourn”.
They are grieving a sense of loss for the passing of the season. Allen, R. E. ed. The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Current English (eighth edition) Wu, Duncan. Romanticism: An Anthology (Second Edition). Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers1994.