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Autumn by Emily Dickinson: Poem Analysis & Meaning

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Instructor: Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

In her poem 'Autumn,' Emily Dickinson describes the changing colors of the season through personification. Learn about Autumn's meaning, the poem's structure, and figurative language. Updated: 01/12/2022

''Autumn'''s Meaning

The poem ''Autumn'' by Emily Dickinson is short and, based on the title, the meaning might seem obvious - it's about the season of Autumn. And you would be right. However, if you read the poem closely and read it more than once, you might find that there is a little more to say about it. Let's go through the whole poem so you can easily follow the points of this lesson (and don't worry, it's not very long):

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on.

That's it! See? It wasn't so long. Anyway, throughout the eight lines of the poem, Dickinson describes various things and how they have changed now that autumn has arrived, such as the fields, berries, mornings, and trees. One example of this are the lines ''The maple wears a gayer scarf/the field a scarlet gown.'' These lines indicate how the trees and fields have changed and are more colorful than their summer 'garments.'

At the end of the poem, Dickinson refers to herself and that she should probably join them in changing her clothes or wearing something special or else she'd be seen as behind the times: ''Lest I should be old-fashioned/I'll put a trinket on.''

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  • 0:04 Autumn's Meaning
  • 1:30 'Autumn's Structure
  • 2:44 Figurative Language
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''Autumn'''s Structure

The poem has eight lines and a rhyme pattern where every other line rhymes with each other, notated by the letters: ABAB CDCF. If you were to put these letters next to each of the lines, you would see that the lines with the same letter next to them rhyme with each other.

For example, lines 1 and 3 would have 'A' next to them, and the words 'were' and 'plumper' rhyme. There is one exception to this pattern, and it comes at the very end of the poem.

Once the rhyme pattern is established, we would expect the last word in the last line to rhyme with 'gown,' but the word is 'on,' which has a similar sound but does not exactly rhyme. This is a very typical technique in Emily Dickinson's poetry that is called slant rhyme, or an 'almost' rhyme. This technique defies readers' expectations and makes the poetry unpredictable.

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