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ode to a nightingale analysis

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Introduction

ODE TO A NIGHTINGALE 'Ode to a nightingale' is, superficially praise for the nightingale's song. But on looking deeper it is about Keats' his search for a way to transcend this world and all the pain associated with it. He probably wrote this ode after he became ill and when he had accepted his sad fate. Keats writes this ode in the first person, which makes this ode almost confessional. Keats first describes the immense joy that bordered on pain that he felt on hearing the nightingale's song. This hints that he wanted the song to help him transcend this world. Keats says that his heart was aching with a 'drowsy', numb pain. The words 'numbness pains' are an oxymoron and a paradox, this hints at Keats' confusion as well as his intoxication. He says that his senses were dulled as though he had drunk the juice of the hemlock- a poisonous plant or as if he had taken 'opiate' or opium or like he was submerged in the 'Lethe' the river of forgetfulness of the past in Greek mythology. He then says this state was brought on not by sadness or envy but happiness at the happiness of the nightingale and its song about summer. He compares it to a 'dryad of the trees' which is a forest sprit in Greek mythology in the form of a young maiden. ...read more.

Middle

But his brain does not let him get to the point of transcendence for it is too 'dull' and bewilders ['perplexes'] and impedes ['retards']. He imagines that he is already with the nightingale in the night sky. He personifies the moon as a queen that is sitting on her throne while the stars that 'cluster'd' around her are compared to fairies. But there is no light [night time] except for that which was blown [synaesthesia- light cannot be blown] from the heavens, from god. He was flying through 'verdurous' [green forested] 'glooms' [because it was night time] and 'winding mossy ways' [reference to the unpredictable, uncertain and twisted path of life]. The word 'mossy' also tell us that it was a dark place because moss generally grows in damp places away from the light. In the fifth stanza Keats is confused in the utter darkness. He uses the words 'embalmed darkness' that refer to death; this is the first reference to death that we see. He cannot see the flowers at his feet or their fragrance, this is another example of synaesthesia and it conveys the confusion that Keats feels as well as provides continuity with the rest of the poem. He has to guess 'each sweet' or each fruit which the seasonal month 'endows' the various plants with. He then lists the trees and mentions the violets in praise of the end of the season, spring. ...read more.

Conclusion

He thus refers from different sources to prove his point. The word 'forlorn' is present in this as well as the next stanza; this provides continuity and repetition that provides rhythm. Keats uses a simile that compares the word 'forlorn' to a 'bell' [probably a funeral bell] whose sound pulls his soul back to his body, his sorrow will not let him transcend. He is sad that the world of fantasy not backed by reality ['fancy'] is not more convincing that it can hold him ['can not cheat so well']. It does not live up to its reputation ['as she is fam'd to do']. The word 'she' implies that 'fancy' is personified as a woman famous for her deceiving quality. 'Adieu' is repeated in the 3rd as well as the 5th line providing a link as well as rhythm. 'Adieu' which means goodbye is Keats farewell to the nightingale as its song slowly dies down ['fades']. We can actually imagine the song withdrawing over the various landforms ['past the near meadows, over the still stream; up the hillside'] until it can not be heard. With the disappearance of the song Keats questions if the entire experience, that moved him so much was real or merely a dream. The nightingale could symbolize death, pure art, creativity, song, literature or anything that could help him transcend this world. It could symbolize the unachievable or transcendence itself. The nature imagery raw, it is not cultivated like in his other poetry. No. of words: 1843 ...read more.

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