Since Keats’ first stanza emphasizes the negative aspects of the contemplating suicide during depression, his second stanza shows the positive features of this melancholy and how it could be mitigated naturally. The stanza begins with a conjunction of ‘but’ (L.11.), signifying a change, which can be seen immediately in the positive diction embedded within the stanza. The temporary nature of melancholy is emphasized in ‘melancholy fit shall fall’ (L.11.), where a fit is an unexpected hiccup in the normal dynamic of life and compared to melancholy which is a passing transition as well. The consonance of the letter ‘f’ in fit and fall stresses the fleeting nature of this gloomy time and the consonance of the letters ‘ll’ underline the joy that is to come at the end of it. This can be connected to the use of the word, ‘rainbow’ (L.16.) as a rainbow is a metaphor for beauty with a pot of gold at the end that can bring joy. The suffering audience is then recommended to ‘glut’ (L.15.) and immerse himself in the beauty of the nature by the speaker who portrays the beauty of sorrow in metaphors such as a ‘weeping cloud’ (L.12.) The diction choice of ‘weeping’, (L.12.) due to the repetition of the long ‘e’ sounds, elongates the beauty. The speaker encourages the audience to indulge in the fleeting beauty of a ‘rainbow of the salt sand-wave’, (L.16.) as rainbows and waves are temporary things in nature but sought for their beauty. The alliteration of the words salt and sand represent their coexisting beauty, as they are more striking if together. This could be interpreted as a metaphor on the coexistence of joy and sorrow to make life more beautiful, the key message of the poem. More importantly, Keats’ last lines in the stanza teach the audience how to deal with melancholy and all that comes with it as the speaker tells the audience to ‘Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave’ (L.19.) The diction choice made by Keats for ‘Emprison’ (L.19.) illustrates the gravity and eternal feeling of melancholy. However, the gentle imagery of a ‘soft hand’ (L.19.) accents the beauty of even sorrow and ‘letting her rave’ (L.19.) highlights the freedom that the speaker would give him melancholy to run wild and just be. Thus, in such a way, Keats uses the repeated imagery of nature and its symbolism to advise the audience on how to restore his spirits in a positive manner.
The speaker’s conclusion regarding the sorrows and joys in life are apparent in his metaphors regarding their union and how one cannot exist without the other. Continuing from the previous stanza regarding the melancholic woman, ‘She dwells with Beauty – Beauty that must die’ (L.21.) The transitory state is shown in the caesura, where the personified Beauty is ravishing but ‘must die’ (L.21.). The contrast and pessimistic outlook on the temporary nature of beauty emphasize the need to appreciate beauty while it remains, a Joy by itself to find the beauty in the fleeting moments of aesthetically pleasing creativity. An oxymoron used to convey the same passing beauty is the metaphor of the ‘aching Pleasure’ (L.23.) where there is a longing towards the vicarious nature of beauty. Lastly, the religious connotations that arise from the ‘temple of Delight’ (L.25.) and Melancholy’s ‘sovran shrine’ (L.26.) suggest the audience is seeking heavenly approval and the speaker is communicating that the heavens agree about the union of joy and sadness, as Melancholy’s shrine exists within the temple of Delight. This extended allegory between melancholy and delight serves its purpose in portraying the contrast and harmony between these two abstract concepts in the conceit. In any case, the heavens can also refer to the previous admonishment of suicide, which in all religions, is forbidden or at least, not condoned. Keats’ final couplet answers a question posed in the first stanza, the reward of the ‘wakeful anguish of the soul’ (L.10.) where the audience, if still wakeful, shall taste melancholy’s sadness and this would be the trophy that is won by the audience by having experienced life. By using synaesthesia in, ‘His soul can taste the sadness of her might,’ (L.29.), the speaker shows the inextricably linked senses that appreciate the world around you. The change to the future tense also emphasizes the inevitable occurrence of tasting melancholy’s sadness following the soul’s ‘wakeful anguish’ (L.10.) The final image of ‘cloudy trophies’ (L.30.) shows the indistinguishably mixed nature of pleasure and melancholy with the negative overtones that cloudy has, which would not have been there, if Keats has chosen misty instead. Therefore, the speaker, subsequently, advises the audience that the balance between joy and sorrows is not only equal, but also increases the happiness by placing things in perspective.
Ode on Melancholy, an ode by John Keats’, is a dedication to sorrow even if it is unpleasant at the moment, a dedication to feel all emotions and experience everything one can to really have lived life. The speaker, in this case, from an experienced point of view shares with his audience, the importance of living life to the fullest and embracing grief as part and parcel of life together with happiness. The first stanza urges us not to attempt to escape pain, while the second encourages us to embrace the transient beauty and joy of nature and the human experience, both the pain and the joy. Finally, the last stanza makes clear that unless we immerse ourselves in the process of the world of change, our sensitivity to life and ability to experience life fully is deadened. Thus, one may see that delight and melancholy are inseparable, and while you sit alone with one, the “other is asleep upon your bed”.
Word Count: 1550
Ode on Melancholy by John Keats