John Keats, “The Human Seasons”
In John Keats’s, “The Human Seasons,” the subject of life as it relates to the human mind is addressed. One of the first things that struck me after reading this poem was Keats’s straightforward, direct, and objective way of presenting the aging process of the mind. His tone seemed very matter-of-fact, as he directly stated his topic that “Four seasons are there in the mind of man” and proceeded to describe each one. I feel that Keats leaves no question about what he is trying to convey in his poem; his tone speaks to his own personal views about life, suggesting that aging is an inevitable process that everyone must go through.
Another important aspect of Keats’s poem is its structure. “The Human Seasons” is organized like a Shakespearean sonnet, consisting of four quatrains and a couplet. What I found interesting was how Keats used this framework to depict the length of each of the “seasons” of the mind. For example, spring and winter are described in only two lines each, which parallel how childhood and death both pass by very quickly. Additionally, the poem itself is not very long, which also parallels the common notion of how short life is. Keats also uses repetition at the beginning of his introduction of each season with the words “he hath.” I think that this helps to unify the life cycle and connect each phase that the human mind goes through. Instead of portraying each stage as distinct and independent from the others, this repetition suggests that human life builds on the past and is circular and connected.
Despite its shorter length, Keats’s poem is filled with several strong images. Keats evokes the image of a cow chewing cud in his depiction of summer/young adulthood (“He hath his summer, when luxuriously/He chews the honied cud of fair spring thoughts”). Similarly, humans reflect on the positive memories of their childhood during young adulthood. Additionally, his comparison of the “fair things” in life to a threshold brook in his description of autumn, as well as the comparison between man and a bird with “tired wings” provide the reader with elaborate images to illustrate the different stages of life. Through his use of imagery, Keats evokes a lot of meaning in a relatively shorter poem.