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Commentary on Sonnet "Bright Star" by John Keats

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Introduction

Commentary on "Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art" "Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art" is a sonnet by John Keats. Although this poem has the structure of a Shakespearean sonnet, it is also thematically divided into an octave followed by a sestet, like an Italian sonnet. In the first octave, imagery and figurative language are used to depict the persona's desire to be as eternal and steadfast as the star without being isolated and distant from the world. In the following sestet, the isolation yet permanence of nature is contrasted with the intimacy between the persona and his sleeping lover. Through the structure of the Italian sonnet, the steady rhythm of the Shakespearean sonnet and myriad literary techniques, Keats explores the internal conflict of the persona as he wishes to have the best of both worlds: the steadfastness of nature and the warmth and intimacy of being human. ...read more.

Middle

This role of the star is similar to the role of the persona in the final sestet as he quietly observes his sleeping "fair love", but the crucial difference is that while the persona is desirably close to his lover, the star is alone and "aloft", which is what the persona does not want to be. The last line of the octave ends with an em dash, and there is a volta, or a change in tone and thought as the poem shifts from describing the star and the quiet nature to depicting the intimacy between the persona and his lover as the persona expresses his desire to stay in this sweet moment forever, as eternal as the star. The volta between the octave and sestet, serves to contrast the cold, distant quality of star with the warm, intimate quality of human relationships. In the first line of the final sestet, the tone changes from contemplative to more conversational as the personal declares "No". ...read more.

Conclusion

However, the tone becomes less gloomy through the use of the word "swoon", the positive connotation of which suggests that the persona accepts a death in love. This implies that although he deeply wishes he could be eternal like the star, he realizes that this is not possible and thus embraces his status as a ephemeral human gifted with intimacy by accepting death as long as he experiences love in his life. The significance of the last two lines of the poem is emphasized, as they are a rhyming couplet. Ultimately, Keats' masterful use of figurative language results in a deeply meaningful sonnet that contrasts the eternal but isolated qualities of nature with the ephemeral but intimate qualities humans. Although this sonnet is short, its scope is large as it explores the inner desires of the persona to have the best of both worlds. Through the many literary techniques, the poet reveals the conflict between the impossible desires and the possible, and the natural world and human world. Anjani Vedula 1/2/09 ...read more.

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