Helen Vendler

Arthur Kingsley Porter University Professor

John Keats. To Autumn

My favorite object is the priceless manuscript of Keats’s great ode To Autumn, It reveals the poet’s intense scrutiny of his page even in the rush of creation; in every stanza, in every instance, we see Keats deleting the inert and inserting the essential. The simple change of “white kernel” to “sweet kernel,” for instance, completes—by adding the sense of taste—the sight, hearing, smell, and touch already present in this rich evocation of autumnal abundance. (We also see on the reverse, with a smile, Keats’s hand conflating “aloft” and “soft” into “afots” as his composing mind outraces his pen.)

9.5 L x 8 W (in)
MS Keats 2.27, Houghton Library. Amy Lowell Bequest, 1925

Examine To Autumn in detail