Lesson video

In progress...


Hello everyone, thank you very much for joining me.

My name is Mr. Blackburn.

Today we're going to be looking at a Romantic poet called John Keats.

One of his most famous poems titled "To Autumn".

But before we start, you'll need a pen and paper, you'll need to turn off any notifications or anything which might distract you.

And if you can, you'll need to try and find somewhere quiet to work.

And once you've done that, let's begin.

So what are we going to be doing today? Well, firstly, I'm going to introduce you to John Keats, the poet.

Then we're going to look at a form of poetry called an ode.

After that, we will read "To Autumn" which Keats wrote, and at the end of the lesson, there'll be a recap so that you can show all of the knowledge that you've learned today.

Who is John Keats? What a great question to start the lesson off with.

Here is John Keats, you can see in that poetry reading, very busily filling his mind with ideas, no doubt.

Keats was born in 1795, and he became a part of this second generation of Romantic writers.

His poetry, unfortunately for Keats', wasn't really very popular when he was alive.

But it did become very popular after he died.

It's good in a way because we get to enjoy all of his poetry, but it's bad for Keats because he didn't get to make any money off of his poetry, which is the point of his job, I guess.

Now, originally, Keats wanted to be a doctor, and he even started at University studying medicine.

But he found that he spent most of his time reading literature and studying other people's writing.

He didn't really leave himself enough time to study any of his medical textbooks.

And so he dropped out of university without qualifying to be a doctor to pursue his career in writing.

And when he moved out, he moved in close to an author named Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was another famous Romantic author.

And perhaps this inspired Keats to carry on writing, even though his writing wasn't popular at the time.

Now, Keats wrote a letter to one of his good friends, and this is a quotation from that letter.

"Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters one soul." Keats is telling us that he thinks poetry should be a world of ideas we can immerse ourselves in, rather than something very prescriptive, where there's only one correct interpretation.

He wanted to enter our soul and to change us on a fundamental level, rather than be something we simply enjoy once and never look at again.

Nourishing, I guess our soul, which is interesting because a lot of Keats' poetry was about how nature can nourish us.

So it provides food, it provides fruit, it provides everything we need to live a healthy and sustained life.

It's nourishing to us physically in the same way that Keats thought poetry was nourishing to our soul.

Now, I hope you've been taking notes because there now follows a short quiz.

Question number one, true or false? Keats was born in 1975? Three, two, one, that's false.

He was born in 1795.

Question number two, Keats was a part of the second generation of Romantic writers, true or false? That is true.

He was a part of the second generation.

Writers like William Wordsworth were part of the original generation of Romantic writers.

Question number three, Keats was a qualified doctor before he became a poet.

True or false? Three, two, one.

That's false.

He didn't finish medical school because he spent all of his time reading things which weren't related to being a doctor.

Question four, Wordsworth was one of Keats' neighbours for a time.

True or false? Three, two, one.

That's false.

He was actually neighbours with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, not William Wordsworth.

Next question, Much of Keats' poetry is about nature's power to provide for and nourish us, true or false? Three, two, one, that's true.

Keats often wrote about how nature provides food for us and keeps us sustained.

And final question, Keats thought that poetry should be simple but uplifting.

True or false? Three, two, one.

That's true.

He thought it should be simple to understand, but uplifting because we immerse ourselves in the ideas of the poetry.

Good work so far, everyone.

You've learned some important biographical details about the Romantic poet John Keats.

What I'd like you to do now is copy out these sentences and fill in the missing words.

You can either use your own notes or rewind the video to find the answers.

I would suggest you pause the video and you come back when you finished.

Welcome back.

Let's make sure you've got the right answers down.

Question number one, John Keats belongs to the second generation of Romantic writers.

Before writing poetry, Keats had studied to be a doctor.

Like other Romantic writers, Keats' poetry was often about the power of nature.

Keats often wrote about nature's ability to nourish us.

And Keats believe that poetry should be simple and unobtrusive.

If your answers didn't look quite like that, maybe you just want to pop down the correct answer in a different colour pen on your notes.

Now, we're going to continue and look at a form of poetry called an ode.

Now, there are lots of different forms of poetry.

A form of poetry is just what type of poem it is.

So some examples might be ballads, or sonnets, or lyric poems. It's like when you listen to music, there are lots of different types of music in the same way that there are lots of different types of poem.

And we just call them forms. Now, an ode is a form of a poem which dates all the way back to Ancient Greece.

And they used to be used to celebrate great sporting achievements.

And nowadays, we view them as a celebration of whatever the topic is.

In this case, it's going to be a celebration of autumn.

Now, there are some things, some rules that we can look out for to see if we're reading an ode.

The first is that they usually celebrate something.

The second is that they usually have a reasonably complicated structure.

So the rhyme schemes might change, or each stanza might take a slightly different view of the subject.

They follow a very particular metre.

And if you don't know what I mean by metre, then look in the little green box in the corner.

It's the rhythm of a piece of poetry.

So lots of odes are in the metre of iambic pentameter.

You may have come across iambic pentameter if you've ever studied Shakespeare.

And the final thing we can look forward to try and tell if is reading an ode is that there will be three distinct stanzas.

You might want to just make a note of some of that information on the screen.

Because what I'm going to ask you to do now, is fill in the blanks on this paragraph.

So I would suggest you pause the video and you use the words at the bottom of the page to fill in the blanks in this paragraph.

Come back when you're done.

Good work, let's make sure that you've got the right words in the right places.

An ode is a form of poetry which originates from all the way back in Ancient Greece.

Traditionally, odes are used to praise or celebrate someone or something.

Odes are generally divided into three stanzas and follow a strict metre such as iambic pentameter.

An interesting observation about odes is that often the rhyme scheme will change halfway through a stanza, making this type of poetry particularly elaborate.

Well done if you got those answers right.

If you didn't, you might want to take a minute just to write the correct answers in.

Excellent work.

Now, we know some things about John Keats, and we know what the form of an ode looks like in poetry.

Now it's time to start thinking about Keats' poem.

But before we go any further, I want you to do this to me.

I want you to write down five ideas that autumn makes you think of.

Now, you can look at that picture for inspiration if you want or you can think about these bullet points.

What changes during autumn? About the way things look, how do things look? What's the weather like? What appears in autumn that we might not have seen for the rest of the year? And how long does autumn last? You can make a little mind map if you want, you can make a bullet pointed list, however you want to do it is fine.

But I want you to write down at least five ideas about autumn.

So pause the video for a couple of seconds while you make some notes and then come back.

I hope that you've made a mind map because I have, and we can see if our ideas look the same.

So the first thing I thought about autumn was what the leaves change colour.

So they go from green to these wonderful colour, kind of rusty colours that look just, they look warm and they look wonderful.

The next thing I thought of was that autumn really doesn't seem to last very long.

So we have quite long summers and it feels like winter goes on forever.

And autumn doesn't really last very long or at least I don't think it has.

Autumn is really important because it marks the end of the summer and the beginning of winter.

So it's a kind of transition period for us.

I think of blackberries and apples and the fact that they're ready to be picked.

And I have really found memories of going out with my parents and picking blackberries to make pies with in the autumn.

I think also, when we think about the weather, sometimes it's really, really warm and other times it's really, really cold, and the weather is very changeable.

Sometimes it doesn't feel like there's any middle ground.

It's either really hot or really cold.

And the final thing I've thought of, and something which is quite sad really if we think about it, is the fact that flowers and plants wither and die in autumn.

So autumn is a time of change from summer to winter, from alive to dead in the case of flowers, from barren to fruitful in the case of the black rubbishes.

So here's John Keats' poem, and I'll read the first stanza to you.

So remember, a stanza is just the correct name for a group of lines.

You might call it a verse, but its proper name is a stanza.

And here's the first stanza, Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run To bend with apples the moss'd cottage trees And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core To swell the gourd and plump the hazel shells With a sweet Colonel, to set budding more And still more later flowers for the bees Until they think warm days will never cease For summer has over-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Now, we're going to go through this line by line just so that we can get a really good idea about what it is that Keats wants us to think about autumn.

So let's start here.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

Mellow can mean either pleasant or laid back.

Both of these things can describe autumn.

It's quite a pleasant season and actually, it's a season where people might feel quite lazy.

Maybe they've just had too many blackberry pies.

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun.

So Keats is saying that autumn is a close friend of the sun.

Maturing means growing old.

So why my Keats have described the sun this way.

What does it tell us about the sun? Perhaps it tells us that the sun is getting old and lower in the sky, and that we should start preparing ourselves for winter.

Conspiring with him now to load and bless.

Keats is saying that autumn is conspiring with the sun.

And conspiring means to plan or to plot.

So here Keats is saying that autumn and the sun are making secret plans to provide a good harvest.

Now that sounds like a good plot to me.

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run.

And in this picture, you'll see an example of a thatched roof.

So it's a roof that is made of straw, rather than one which is covered with tiles.

And this is how I certainly imagine the kind of classic farmhouse.

So maybe this is what Keats was imagining as well.

So far, in the first four lines of that stanza, we have a really idealised idyllic version of autumn.

Everything looks wonderful.

There's lots of fruit, the season of autumn and the sun making a happy little plan to provide us with lots of food.

To bend with apples than moss'd cottage trees And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core.

Well, to bend with apples the moss'd cottage trees, why would these trees be bending? Well, they're bending because of how much fruit is growing on them.

They are so filled with fruit.

They are so plentiful that they're bending because they can't support all of the fruit they're holding.

To swell the gourd and plump the hazel shells with a sweet kernel.

Now, I didn't know what a gourd was when I first read the poem.

So I did have to Google it.

And here's an example of them.

They look like pumpkins.

So gourds are pumpkins.

Why are they swelling while they're getting bigger and bigger? They're getting tastier and tastier as the autumn goes on.

And plump the hazel shell With a sweet kernel.

Hazelnuts, that is all that Keats talking about, but he says that those kernels are going to be extra sweet and extra clump.

So again, we get the idea that autumn is providing lots and lots of food for us.

And still more, later flowers for the bees Until they think warm days will never cease For summer has over-brimm'd their clammy cells.

And here, Keats says that the flowers are overflowing with nectar, even though the bees are happy in autumn.

Why are they overflowing? Well, it's because autumn is just so generous.

So we've seen generosity in the fruit that it's creating and bending the trees with.

We've seen generosity and the gourds and the hazelnuts and how plump they are.

And now we're seeing generosity in the fact that the flowers are overflowing with nectar.

With that in mind, which of the words on your screen do you think best describes Keats' attitude towards autumn? Does he think that it's plentiful? Does he think that it's desolate, Or does he think it's abandoned? Three, two, one.

If you said plentiful, you're correct.

That just means there's plenty.

There's plenty of food to go around.

Everybody should be happy.

So Keats presents autumn is generous and plentiful.

Here's the second stanza.

Who has not seen thee oft amid thy store? Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find Thee sitting careless on a granary floor Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind.

Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while they hook Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep Steady thy laden head across a brook Or by a cyder press with patient look, Thou watchest the last oozing hours by hours.

So here Keats has changed his approach to autumn somewhat, rather than describing the season.

Generally, he is addressing autumn directly.

So he's talking to autumn as if it's a person.

Again, we'll go through this section by section of the second stanza.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find Thee sitting careless on a granary floor Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind.

Well, I think the fact that Keats uses the words careless and winnowing makes autumn sound lazy.

It's not busy.

It's not running around trying to get this harvest sorted.

It's sitting around careless, waiting for that harvest to be ready to pick.

And if you don't know what winnowing wind is, it just means a gentle breeze which adds to the overall pleasant atmosphere that Keats present of autumn.

The astute among you might also have noticed that winnowing wind starts with the same sound.

That's an example of alliteration.

And winnowing wind itself sounds very gentle and it's quite pleasant to say.

So this is Keats reflecting in his language the way he feels about autumn.

On a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while they hook Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep Steady thy laden head across a brook.

Well, what does all this mean Mr. Blackburn? I don't know what this means, but luckily, I'm going to tell you.

So I think this section of the second stanza, tells us again, that autumn is lazy.

And I don't think it's bad lazy, I think it's just really laid back lazy.

It's not rushing.

But by the end of this section, autumn is starting to work hard.

Like a gleaner thou dost keep Steady thy laden head across a brook.

Its head is hung, it's looking for crops to pick.

So throughout this stanza, we see autumn be quiet laid back about what it's doing, but it is working hard in the background.

Or by a cyder-press with patient look Thou watchest the last oozing hours by hours.

And I think the word patient here is really important.

Because it shows us that autumn is happy to take its time and sit back and watch while the harvest happens.

With that in mind, how do you think the second stanza describes autumn? Is autumn something motivational? Is autumn fast-paced or is it lazy? Three, two, one.

If you said lazy, then you're correct.

Keats says the autumn is generally lazy and laid back.

And here's the third and final stanza.

And if you remember, one of the rules for identifying an ode was that there were three stanzas.

This is the third and final stanza so we know that it's an ode.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay,where are they? Think not of them, thou hast thy music too While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn Among the river sallows, borne aloft Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies.

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft.

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

So again, we'll look section by section at this stanza and I thought that was a really atmospheric picture of autumn happening right there.

While barred clouds bloom in the soft-dying sky.

Now, clouds are beginning to accumulate over what was a happy and carefree sky that was full of sunshine in the first stanza.

So we're beginning to get a contrast.

The third stanza contrasts the first, clouds are coming in is becoming less pleasant.

I also really enjoy the soft-dying day which Keats describes because it makes it sound as though autumn itself is slowly dying.

And if you remember back to our mind maps, that's one of the things that I thought about autumn.

I thought that it was a time when things slowly die off, ready for winter.

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn.

And there's more language to do with death here.

Mourning is what is the emotion that we feel when we're grieving perhaps for someone who's died.

And this reinforces for is the fact that autumns losing its power.

Keats also tells us about lambs, and lambs are born in spring.

So this phrase shows how much time has passed since then, they're fully grown now.

There's a whole season, a whole two seasons perhaps have gone by.

Those lambs have grown up.

And then the final line of that stanza is, The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Now the red-breast means the robin.

The robin marks the arrival of winter, and the final passing of autumn.

So when you think of winter, you probably think of perhaps snow and you think of a robin sitting in a tree.

Now, I only found out last year that robin's are actually all year round birds.

They aren't just birds for winter.

But for the purposes of this poem, the robin means that winter has arrived.

And with the arrival of winter, comes the final passing of autumn.

So what do you think the general tone of the third stanza is? Is Keats angry of autumn? Is Keats sad for autumn? What's is Keats joyful because of autumn? What's the tone of the third stanza? Three, two, one.

If you said sad, then well done.

Keats is sad the autumn is finishing.

He's sad that winter is about to set in.

Well done everyone.

On the surface, the language of that poem looks like it's quite difficult.

But the more we look into it and the more we break it down, the more we realise how gorgeous a poem it really is.

Keats shows us so many different parts of autumn, that perhaps we hadn't considered for ourselves.

Now, if you remember at the beginning of the lesson, Keats said in that letter to his friend, that he wanted poetry to be unobtrusive.

And I think that after we wrote that, what we're left with is the imagery that he created.

We're left with images of autumn, rather than a feeling that we've just had to spend however long we've spent reading a poem.

And that's because perhaps our minds have been nourished by Keats' poetry in exactly the way he wanted.

Now, on the next screen, there are going to be some questions that I want you to answer in full sentences in your books.

So pause the video while you do it.

And once you have written your answers, come back and we will check them.

Good work.

Let's see what you've got then.

Question number one asked what is an ode? And my answer is an ode is a form of poetry which dates back to Ancient Greece, which is used to celebrate a person or thing.

Question two asked, how do we know that "To Autumn" is an ode? "To Autumn" is an ode because it's in three stanzas, and it was written to praise the season of autumn.

Question three asked, what feelings towards autumn does Keats present? And the answer, Keats reveals that autumn is a season of richness as he describes plentiful food and the joys of the sounds of autumn.

Now, your answers may look slightly different, and that is completely okay.

But if there's something in my answers that you haven't written down, now is the time to do it.

Well done, everyone.

Now you know something about John Keats.

Now you know something about the form of poetry called an ode, and now you know quite a lot about Keats' famous poem "To autumn." Don't forget to take the quiz at the end of the lesson, just to prove to yourself how much you've learned.

Well done for all of your hard work.