What Does the Poem "To Autumn" by John Keats Mean?

John Keats' poem "To Autumn" is a simple verse in praise of the fall season, focusing on its combination of fruitful harvest and coming hibernation of the planet's wildlife, as the swallows prepare to migrate and the flowers bloom their last explosions of color in preparation for the long winter.

The power of "To Autumn" comes from its ability to develop themes in a rich and abundant way without causing any ripples in the rhetorical pool in which the audience is invited to take in the view of the fall. This poem is about the joys of daily looks at the slowly changing landscape; it is in the quiet of contemplation that these images are allowed to express themes in an understated way that makes them seem even more automatically accepted.

As with Keats' other odes, the atmosphere of transition is quite important. The warmth of autumn gains a great deal of its power from the fact that the cold is coming. The goddess Autumn only has a short life on the planet, and the natural creatures who abound in the third stanza all must make their preparations for the winter months. The speaker observes all of this transition and indicates that it is this tension that gives the season its power.