I am a student of Class VIII. Our English teacher often gives us the task of explaining one or the other stanza, or even the whole, of the poem in our own words to find out if we have understood what the poet wanted to say in the poem.

Currently, I am reading the poem "Ode to Autumn" written by John Keats. I need to explain this stanza of the poem in my own words, but I am unable to understand in which tense (past or present or something else) I should explain it. The stanza is as follows:

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 kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease;
For Summer has o'er brimm'd their clammy cells.

Link: http://www.bartleby.com/106/255.html

  • "Keats wrote this poem." What tense is that? – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Aug 12 '16 at 17:32
  • @P.E.Dant Past Indefinite or Simple Past. – Kirti Aug 12 '16 at 17:36
  • Have you ever read an explanation of a poem? What tense was used in that explanation? – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Aug 12 '16 at 17:39
  • It is not really clear what you are asking. But we often talk about literature, including poems, in the present tense. For example: Keats writes in "Ode to Autumn" that.... or Keats describes... or In "Ode to Autumn" Keats compares or uses or ..... This is because the poem (and literature in general) still speaks to us today. – Alan Carmack Aug 12 '16 at 17:49
  • It's entirely a matter of personal opinion / stylistic choice whether you choose to say, for example, Keats writes about [blah blah] or Keats wrote about [blah blah]. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 12 '16 at 18:01

In the LitCrit racket we generally use past-tense forms only for speaking about the process of creation (Keats wrote the Ode To Autumn in September 1819) or about contemporary reception of the poem. Discussion of the poem's qualities and techniques is (as Alan Carmack tells you) usually cast in the present tense, as if the poem and the poet were immediately before us and in dialogue with us—as indeed they are.


I think the best explanation, is that the Stanza reads like a recollection (memory) of how Autumn progresses, and has elements that trick the reader into feeling like it is written in the Past Progressive. That being said, I think on a technical basis it could best be described as Present Progressive, as the events are described as if they are happening now, in sequence.

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