This is an example of a possible approach in comparing texts as discussed here.

PLANNING: Key quotes to use in the comparison:

Stanza 1: ‘To bend with apples’, ‘To swell the gourd and plump the hazel shells’, ‘With ripeness to the core’

Stanza 2: ‘Soft hair lifted by the winnowing wind’, ‘Sound asleep, Drowsed with the fume of poppies’, ‘Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours’

Stanza 3: ‘Gathering swallows twitter in the sky’, ‘Where are the songs of Spring?’

Another poem that has nature as its dominant theme is To Autumn by John Keats. In the poem Keats presents autumn, a season traditionally representing death, as a time of great life and beauty, and implores us to consider its unique qualities that make it such a special part of nature. By doing so, he likely wants us to appreciate the beauty in the now, the present, and not just always be looking for the next better, brighter thing. It is this instructional quality that nature provides that connects it to Excerpt from The Prelude (EFTP) as previously discussed. 

In the opening stanza, Keats presents autumn as a time of great abundance. The trees are bending with the plenitude of apples, and a strong semantic field emphasises the weight and fullness of the fruit: swell, plump, budding. The phrase ‘with ripeness to the core’ extends the idea that nature is bursting at the seams, metaphorically imitating Keats’ satisfaction with the season. The reverence demonstrated by Keats is similar to Wordsworth’s in EFTP as he describes his rapture and sense of extended freedom like a horse as discussed earlier.

In the second stanza, Keats changes the focus to harvest and rest. He uses words like drowsed, and sleep to suggest that the season has a pleasant relaxing feel to it after the harvest of the abundant offerings of nature is complete. The reader experiences a calm and gentle mood when Keats writes ‘thy soft hair lifted by the winnowing wind’, and the restful relaxed tone is extended in the line ‘thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.’ The onomatopoeia of oozings is accentuated by the assonance in ‘hours’, elongating the tranquil time. 

Much like EFTP, To Autumn presents a philosophical ending to the poem. Both poems use negative semantic fields to introduce an alternative mood, Wordsworth implying that the boy experiences an overwhelming feeling with nature, with him feeling small compared to its larger presence. The necessary grounding and humbling effect of nature is probably Wordsworth’s intention. Keats too believes that nature has a humbling effect, but he seems understandably more aware of it than the young Wordsworth. Keats philosophises over the acceptance of the passing of time, and life’s natural cycles, including death. His reference to the swallows gathering in the sky, symbolic of the end of a cycle, seems despondent, but Keats himself implores us to not think beyond the moment, to not ask where the songs of spring are, for autumn has its own beauty: it is necessary to appreciate what we have. The fact that Keats has had so much death around him in his life makes this instruction more than admirable.    

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English teaching resources


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