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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

HEART OF AUTUMN, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography


"Heart of Autumn" is a poem written by Robert Penn Warren in 1943, which explores the themes of change, time, and mortality through the imagery of autumn.


The poem begins with a description of the autumn landscape, with the speaker describing the colors of the leaves and the sound of the wind. The speaker then reflects on how the changing seasons symbolize the passage of time, and how the arrival of autumn brings with it a sense of loss and decay.

As the poem progresses, the speaker meditates on the inevitability of change and the fragility of life. The speaker notes that the leaves, once green and full of life, now fall to the ground and are swept away by the wind. The speaker also contemplates the idea that death is a natural part of life, and that the cycle of birth, growth, decay, and renewal is a fundamental aspect of the universe.

Poetic Elements:

  • Form: "Heart of Autumn" is a free-verse poem and consists of twenty-four lines without any strict rhyme scheme or meter. The poem is divided into three stanzas of uneven length. The structure of the poem emphasizes the cyclical nature of the seasons and parallels the progression of autumn from the beginning to the end.
  • Imagery: The poem is rich in sensory imagery, particularly in its descriptions of the autumn landscape and the sound of the wind.
  • Tone: The tone of the poem is meditative and reflective, with the speaker contemplating the deeper meaning of the changing seasons and the passage of time.
  • Language: The language of the poem is simple and straightforward, but with moments of poetic and philosophical depth.
  • Symbolism: The changing seasons are used as a symbol for the passage of time and the inevitability of change.
  • Emotion: The poem evokes a sense of melancholy and loss, as well as a sense of awe and wonder at the natural world.


In "Heart of Autumn," Robert Penn Warren uses vivid imagery and reflective language to explore the themes of change, time, and mortality. The poem invites the reader to contemplate the natural cycles of life and death, and to find meaning in the impermanence of all things. Ultimately, the poem is a meditation on the beauty and fragility of the natural world, and the role that mortality plays in shaping our lives.

Poem Snippet:


And all that mighty heart is lying still!

The hills are dreary with the waning light,

And fast, fast, fading, is the sight of day,

And all that lives is born to die.


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