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Theme Of Death In Keats's 'To Autumn'

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2.1 Death motif

In “To Autumn”, the season autumn is depicted as death, or as the Grim Reaper. Autumn is, however, an unusual reaper figure, in that they are not merciless, but patient and calm. Interestingly enough, the point of view Keats offers about death, is non-violent, not corporeal, and only implicit in the poem, through metaphors. Almost all human components are removed from the poem, and death is symbolized by nature only. It is put into a context where it occurs in the course of nature, and pictured as a consequence of riches, abundance, and fulfilment.
These feelings or abundance and well-being, according to Mark Bracher, make it quite simple for the reader to look at death calmly and accept their own mortality as consequence of a rich and fulfilling life (Bracher 1990, 634). Bracher accuses the poem of pretence
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The over-brimming of the cells, Bracher interprets as the only action being brought to its natural ending: loading leads to overloading, filling leads to overflowing, and swelling to bursting, but only in the cells’ over-brimming is the tension released (Bracher 1990, ibid.). Richard Macksey has a similar point of view. He cites, amongst other things, the ode’s form as evidence for its state of being “filled to bursting” (Macksey 1984, 870), pointing toward the fact that “To Autumn” has eleven lines per stanza, while almost all other odes by Keats have only ten (Macksey 1984, ibid.). According to Bracher, this loading and overloading makes Autumn quite the ambivalent figure, traditionally standing for death, but being attributed to fulfilment in the poem. Autumn’s actions unite both meanings within them, abundance and ripening symbolizing death and decay – through the anxiety of bursting and rotting –, as well as fulfilment (Bracher 1990, 646
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