Percy Shelley & John Keats


Percy Bysshe Shelley's Biography

(1792-1822), was one of the great English lyric poets. He experimented with many literary styles and had a lasting influence on many later writers. Shelley was born on Aug. 4, 1792, in Sussex into a wealthy and politically prominent family. He had a stormy career at Eton College and Oxford University, from which he was expelled in 1811 for writing a pamphlet called The Necessity of Atheism.
In August 1811, Shelley eloped with 16-year-old Harriet Westbrook, the daughter of a former London coffee house owner. He abandoned her in 1814 and ran away with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. Mary was the daughter of William Godwin, a political philosopher whose liberal ideas greatly influenced Shelley. Although both said they did not believe in marriage, Shelley and Mary Godwin were married in 1816, after Harriet drowned herself. They had three children, two of whom died in infancy. See Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft.
After March 1818, Shelley went into exile in Italy. There he wrote a series of important works, including the play The Cenci (1820) and the poems Prometheus Unbound (1820), The Witch of Atlas (1820), Epipsychidion (1821), and Hellas (1822). The death of an acquaintance, the English poet John Keats, inspired his elegy Adonais (1821). On July 8, 1822, Shelley drowned while sailing near Livorno (sometimes called Leghorn), Italy.
Shelley's poems are emotionally direct, but difficult to understand intellectually. Much of his poetry is openly autobiographical, including his most famous lyric "Ode to the West Wind" (1819). Shelley's spiritual attitudes were intensely personal and tended to oppose traditional Christian views. Shelley felt that spiritual truth was not based on either supernatural revelation or natural experience. Instead, he thought truth could be understood by the imagination alone. Shelley debated the role of the imagination as a spiritual guide in "Mont Blanc" (1816). This powerful meditative poem first revealed Shelley's mature style. Another early lyric, "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" (1816), tells of Shelley's decision to devote his life to the pursuit of ideals. He also developed this theme in his poem Alastor (1816).
Shelley's later poetry became more somber and skeptical. The Irish poet William Butler Yeats described Shelley's theme as an increasing conflict between infinite desire and the inability fully to realize such desire. The autobiographical Epipsychidion records Shelley's vision of ideal love finding its lasting home in an earthly paradise. The poem describes his supposed success in achieving that vision through his love for an Italian noblewoman, Emilia Viviani. In the end, however, the poem casts doubt on that success and, even more, on the ability of mere words to describe such perfection.
In 1821, Shelley wrote his famous essay A Defence of Poetry. The work is valuable for its insights into poetry and Shelley's attempt to use his views on imagination to define the role of poets. He asserts that poets sow the seeds of future reforms but do not themselves live to witness their realization. Whether Shelley had begun to find some definite faith, philosophical or otherwise, we do not know, but his final poems are as grim and sorrowful as any he wrote. The last love lyrics that Shelley wrote are serene only in their hopelessness.

Shelley's "Ozymandias"

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Might, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'

"Ozymandias" Discussion Questions

1) Whom has the speaker met? What sight does this person describe?
2) What sort of person is suggested by the visage that is described?
3) Think of the words on the pedestal. Why is it ironic that the statue has crumbled? Why is it ironic that it is surrounded by desert?
4) What is the theme of this poem?
5) What is your definition of power? What is your definition of pride? In what way do the two complement each other?

Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind"

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!

Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky's commotion,
Loose clouds like earth's decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine a‘ry surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith's height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge

Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh hear!

Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lull'd by the coil of his crystˆlline streams,

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae's bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave's intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic's level powers

Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know

Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves:oh hear!

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seem'd a vision; I would ne'er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chain'd and bow'd
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like wither'd leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken'd earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

"Ode to the West Wind" Discussion Questions

1) According to the poem, with what season is the west wind associated
2) What does the wind do to dead leaves? What does it do to the ocean?
3) What does the speaker ask of the wind in section V of the poem?
4) In what sense is the wind a "destroyer and preserver"?
5) How, according to section IV, has the speaker changed? What caused this change?
6) Whose "new birth" (line 65) do you think the speaker wishes to bring about?
7) Interpret the last line of this poem. How does this famous last line tie the poem together?

Shelley's "To a Skylark"

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun
O'er which clouds are bright'ning,
Thou dost float and run,
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.

The pale purple even
Melts around thy flight;
Like a star of Heaven
In the broad daylight
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight:

Keen as are the arrows
Of that silver sphere,
Whose intense lamp narrows
In the white dawn clear
Until we hardly see--we feel that it is there.

All the earth and air
With thy voice is loud.
As, when night is bare,
From one lonely cloud
The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed.

What thou art we know not;
What is most like thee?
From rainbow clouds there flow not
Drops so bright to see
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.

Like a poet hidden
In the light of thought,
Singing hymns unbidden,
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:

Like a high-born maiden
In a palace tower,
Soothing her love-laden
Soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:

Like a glow-worm golden
In a dell of dew,
Scattering unbeholden
Its aerial hue
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:

Like a rose embowered
In its own green leaves,
By warm winds deflowered,
Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-winged thieves.

Sound of vernal showers
On the twinkling grass,
Rain-awakened flowers,
All that ever was
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.

Teach us, sprite or bird,
What sweet thoughts are thine:
I have never heard
Praise of love or wine
That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.

Chorus hymeneal
Or triumphal chaunt
Matched with thine, would be all
But an empty vaunt--
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.

What objects are the fountains
Of thy happy strain?
What fields, or waves, or mountains?
What shapes of sky or plain?
What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?

With thy clear keen joyance
Languor cannot be:
Shadow of annoyance
Never came near thee:
Thou lovest, but ne'er knew love's sad satiety.

Waking or asleep,
Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep
Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?

We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

Yet if we could scorn
Hate, and pride, and fear;
If we were things born
Not to shed a tear,
I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.

Better than all measures
Of delightful sound,
Better than all treasures
That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!

Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow
The world should listen then, as I am listening now!

"To a Skylark" Discussion Questions

1) At what time of day does the "blithe spirit" fly?
2) To what four things does the speaker compare the bird in lines 36-55? In what ways does he say the bird is like these things?
3) Why does the poet say of the bird, "Bird thou never wert"?
4) What do you suppose the speaker means in line 80 by "love's sad satiety"?
5) How is the poet's song different from the bird's song? Why can the bird's song "flow in such a crystal stream"?
6) What does the speaker ask the skylark to teach him? What effect does he think this would have on the world? Why does he feel this way?

Shelley's "To ____ "

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory--
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.
Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the belovd's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

"To ________ " Discussion Questions

1) What does the speaker of the poem say will happen to "thy thoughts, when thou art gone"?
2) Explain how music, odors, and roses will live on.
3) What idea about love is the speaker communicating?
4) How differently would this idea come across if it were presented in simple prose rather than as a poem? Explain.

Shelley's "A Dirge"

Rough winds, that moanest loud
Grief too sad for song;
Wild wind when sullen cloud
Knells all the night long;
Sad storm, whose tears are in vain,
Bare woods, whose branches strain,
Deep caves and dreary main----
Wail, for the world's wrong!

"A Dirge" Discussion Questions

1) What does the speaker of the poem ask the wind, a storm, and bare branches to do?
2) What do you think the speaker means by "the world's wrong"?
3) What effect is created by calling upon the natural elements to bemoan the world's wrong? How does this device help portray the poet's sense of moral indignation?

John Keats's Biography

(1795-1821), was an English poet of the romantic period.Keats's poetry is concerned, in various ways, with joy in the beautyof this world, sorrow over its inevitable passing, and attempts tofind bridges between the perishable world we know and theeternal world we imagine. His verse employs unusually rich andvivid images to express his intense feelings.< dd>Keats was born in London on Oct. 31, 1795, the son of alivery stable keeper. He attended the Clarke school in Enfield,outside London, and his interest in literature was first arousedthere. Keats later studied medicine and passed his medicalexaminations, but he never practiced because he had decided tobecome a poet. The reviews ruined Keats's reputation and evengave rise to the story that the young poet was literally killed by thehostile reception of his works. Adding to Keats's disappointmentin 1818 were the death of his brother from tuberculosis andKeats's premonition that he himself would suffer the same fate.Keats began to develop an increasing feeling that poverty anddisease would prevent his marrying Fanny Brawne, whom hedeeply loved. Yet from the fall of 1818 through the fall of 1819,Keats experienced an intense burst of creativity, and his final andbest volume was published in 1820. But Keats had developedtuberculosis. He traveled to Italy, hoping a warmer climate mightimprove his health. He died in Rome and was buried there.
Keats's early poetry was uneven. It showed the influence ofEdmund Spenser and William Shakespeare, but it lacked theconsistency these poets displayed. In his 1817 volume, perhapsthe only poem of mature stature was the sonnet of excited literary discovery "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer." In the poetry of his final volume, Keats achieved the rich beauty and superbcontrol of image, story, and language that has earned him lasting fame. Most of the poems written during Keats's brief maturity display what he called "negative capability." They explore manypossibilities of the subjects with which they are concerned but donot insist upon any one answer to the enduring problems of life.The intense experience of life, and not its perfect understanding,was Keats's main poetic concern.

Keats's "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer"

MUCH have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific--and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise--
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

"On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" Discussion Questions

1) What does the speaker of the poem claim he missed before reading Chapman?
2) What transportation did the speaker use in his "travels"? To what does he compare his new-found wonderment?
3) Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a poet of the nine- teenth century, wrote that "A Sonnet is a coin: its face reveals/The soul-it converse, to what Power tis due." How would you describe Keats's "soul," as it is revealed in "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer"? What is the "power" to which that soul owes its due?

Keats's "Bright Star, Would I Were Steadfast as Thou Art"

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death.

"Bright Star, Would I Were Steadfast as Thou Art"
Discussion Questions

1) What two things does the speaker say the star watches from its position in the sky?
2) In what ways does the speaker wish to be like the star? In what ways does he wish to be different?
3) What do do think is meant by "sweet unrest" in line 12?
4) In a Petrarchan, or Italian, sonnet, the first eight lines pose a question or problem, while the last six lines offer a solution or comment on or extend the issue. What question or problem is presented in the octave, or first eight lines? What response is given in the sestet, or next six lines?

Keats's "When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be"

WHEN I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charact'ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love!--then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

"When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be"
Discussion Questions

1) What does the speaker say he fears miss- ing in lines 1-8 and in lines 9-12?
2) What do you think is meant by "cloudy symbols of a high romance" in line 6?
3) Whom is the speaker addressing in line 10?
4) How does the speaker resolve his fears?
5) What does this poern suggest about Keats's views on death? Do you feel these views would be held by the other Romantic poets you have read? Why or why not?

Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale"

MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,--
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover'd up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain--
To thy high requiem become a sod,

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toil me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam'd to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:--Do I wake or sleep?

"Ode to a Nightingale" Discussion Questions

1) What is the speaker's mood in stanza I?
2) What wish does the speaker express at the end of stanza II and at the beginning of stanza III? According to stanza IV, how will he accomplish this wish?
3) What effect does the word "forlorn" have on the speaker in stanza VIll?
4) What is the "draught of vintage" the speaker craves in stanza II? What would it help him to escape?
5) What differeences between the speakerŐs world and the birdŐs are described in stanza IV? What is meant in line 38 by "here there is no light"?
6) What does the speaker find tempting in stanza VI? What changes his mind in stanza VII?

Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn"

THOU still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal--yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,"--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

"Ode on a Grecian Urn" Discussion Questions

1) As the speaker studies the scene on a Grecian urn, it takes hold of his imagination.Whom does the speaker address in stanza II? Whom does he address in stanza III?
2) What ritual is described in the first four lines of stanza IV?
3) In what way is the urn a "Sylvan historian"? How can it tell its "flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme"?
4) Interpret lines 1 1 -1 2: "Heard melodies are sweet, but thoseunheard/Are sweeter . . ." What do these lines indicate about the power of the imagination?
5) Why might the lover in stanza 11 grieve? Why does the speaker advise him not to grieve?
6) What is the "Cold Pastoral" mentioned in line 45? With what does the speaker contrast it?

Keats's "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 Autumn" Discussion Questions

1) In stanza I of the poem, what is the season described as "doing"? With whom is the season "conspiring"?
2) What are some of the songs of autumn?
3) In what way can Autumn be described as a "close bosom-friend of the maturing sun"?
4) What activities frequently associated with the season are described in the second stanza? What impression of Autumn is created by mentioning these activities?
5. Why do you think the speaker mentions the songs of Spring in stanza III?