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William Wordsworth's 'To the Cuckoo' and John Keats' 'Ode to a nightingale' are comparable in many different aspects.

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Introduction

William Wordsworth's 'To the Cuckoo' and John Keats' 'Ode to a nightingale' are comparable in many different aspects. The two poems have striking similarities and appear akin to one another. Both poems are likely to be written in related styles; both Wordsworth and Keats wrote in the same era, and were both Romantic Poets. They are also both poets of similar stature and regarded to be of similar ability. They both talk of similar a subject matter, a bird that is personally special. There are parallels to be drawn, but there are also many ways in which the poems contrast. It becomes clear that both poets perceive and respond to their subjects rather differently, and that the poems differ in meaning, direction and quality. The nucleus of both poems is a bird, Keats writes of a nightingale and Wordsworth of a Cuckoo. Birds are very modest and insignificant creatures, yet both poets have used them to extensively express emotion. To these poets their respective birds are extraordinary and important. Neither poet refers to one particular creature, but they both use the species of bird representatively. It is not their fondness for the bird as if it were a pet, a domestic animal, but their fondness of the free animal species that inspires them. ...read more.

Middle

In essence, the bird is part of Wordsworth. It is part of his past. He is yearning for his past so he longs for the cuckoo. The cuckoo is the symbol for his past. It is something he has left, something that has not changed. "The same whom in my schoolboy days, I listen'd to" Although it would not be the same cuckoo, it does not matter, it still reminds Wordsworth of his childhood. Wordsworth's poem is drenched with nostalgia. His longing is for the past, for his childhood days. Keats contrasts himself and the nightingale. He longs for the nightingale in a wishful way. He wants to be the nightingale. To Keats the nightingale is his future and not his past. Wordsworth's longing is pleasurable. He enjoys reminiscing in his reverie. He is a man "a state of vivid sensation". This may also be said of Keats, but his sensation is intense and aggressive. Whereas Wordsworth seems in a state of high, Keats seems sober in his writing. This is ironic, as it is despite his references to an "opiate", "a draught of vintage" and "hemlock". Wordsworth is relaxed and sedated, illustrated by, "While I am lying on the grass" Wordsworth follows his idea of "emotion recollected in tranquillity", he both feels these emotions and writes about them in a tranquil state. ...read more.

Conclusion

He has realised he cannot find happiness on earth and is not so easily satisfied as Wordsworth. This difference in ending shows how two poems that started with similar ideas have deviated into opposite tales. Both poets use pastoral imagery, something characteristic of the Romantic poets. In 'To the Cuckoo', the scene of "hill to hill", "through woods and on the green". Keats dreams less of nature, but his final scene is "Over the still stream, Up the hill-side... In the next valley glades" A fundemental difference is that Wordsworth desires to remember his "visionary hours", whilst Keats wants only to forget. His only way of continuing is by forgetting the past. He puts his grief from his mother's death behind him. The reference to "Lethe" shows how he wants to wash away his memories in the river of forgetfulness. The seasons each poet has chosen to set their poem in are different. Wordsworth has opted for Spring, identifying the Cuckoo as "darling of the Spring!" Spring represents the fresh and unspoilt nature. It represents blossoming and warming. Keats sets his poem in Summer, the height of the year. Keats' summer is somewhat stale and uncomfortable, as if it is dying into Autumn. This is reflected in the mood of Keats' poem. Romantic poetry generally attempted to break away from the mould of neo-Classicism, that is to not try to recreate Classical imagery and structure. Wordsworth obeys this theorem perfectly, with not one Classical reference. ...read more.

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