Compare And Contrast The Themes Of Time, Life And Death In John Keats’ ‘To Autumn’ and Ted Hughes’ ‘October Salmon’In Keats’ ‘To Autumn’ he relates the subject (autumn) to love, death and immortality. Time as something is coming to an end, as in ‘To Autumn’ and time moving towards death and waiting as in ‘October Salmon’. It’s very common for these two particular authors to write on this theme.
Keats writes about the time in autumn as it causes summer to end and winter to arrive, however, he sometimes uses time as the object in a more depressing way. Such a method is displayed in his ‘ode on melancholy’ where in the first stanza he talks about the movement towards the night, ‘shade will come too drowsily’ and ‘wakeful anguish of the soul’. Ted Hughes seems to prefer the more positive outlook that the salmon’s time has not been wasted or, as displayed in ‘Work and Play’ the swallow is doing something more pleasurable with her time than the humans.
When I read ‘Ode On Melancholy’ it gave me a negative, depressing feel as did ‘To Autumn’ because of their suggestion that things will end, whereas ‘October Salmon’ has more positive connotations; ‘gallery of marvels’, ‘primrose and violet’ and ‘the bloom of sea life’. Autumn seems to have elongated summer too much and that’s not a good thing, ‘warm days will never cease’ and ‘o’er brimmed their clammy cells’ are examples of this. But of course the warm days will end just as the salmon will die but after the salmon there will be others, it’s the ‘machinery of heaven’, after autumn it will seem like summer will never come again; ‘last oozings’. The imagery given by ‘the machinery of heaven’ is that of a cog. Turning, turning through the years. How if you go round and round the round about you’ll eventually get back to where you began, ‘inscribed in his egg’.
Keats uses time as a metaphor for life. As in ‘Ode On Melancholy’; ‘shade to shade will come to drowsily’ could mean that the dark times of your life could blur into one. This is in total contrast to Hughes’ suggestions that time in life is vital and exiting ‘king of infinite liberty’ and ‘loyal to his doom’ Keats portrays autumn to be prolonging the summer ending. Hughes says the salmon will be glad when it’s all over ‘death has already dressed him’.
Hughes Focuses on a small element of the natural world and perhaps a particular species. This can be seen in his ‘Work and Play’ as well as ‘October Salmon’. In contrast Keats looks at nature in a broad view with more description and detail. This could just be conveyed because Keats’ poems are written in 1818 and the language is more capable of conveying the description. Hughes’ language is snappy and contains more verbs (‘lying’, ‘surge-ride’) and sharp concise imagery (‘scrubby oak tree’) that is helped by the pace of the poem being faster.
Keats uses language and description that makes his attitude towards death subtle, ‘soft-dying’, ‘maturing’. Hughes has a more definite way of conveying the point that it will be over when it is over, ‘graveyard pool’, ‘chamber of horrors’. These are both phrases that strongly imply death in it’s most obvious form, yet underneath there lies the idea of life after death or possibly even death after death, ‘graveyard’ and ‘horrors’.