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"Ode to a Nightingale"

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The poem Ode to a Nightingale, by the poet John Keats with the other odes, is some of the most important achievements of his poetic history. These odes collectively put forward the ideal of romance and eternal love. The poem in particular is significant as it discusses the immortality of nature with the beauty of its creation, but it tries to reject the optimistic pursuit of pleasures that are found in other Keats poems. It is analyzed with reference to the ode in this article.

Keats was one of the most popular poets of the early nineteenth century. He is responsible for the development of the Romanticism, which was a movement that “espoused the sanctity of emotion and imagination, and privileged the beauty of the natural world. Many of ideas and themes evident in Keats’s great odes are quintessentially Romantic concerns: the beauty of nature, the relation between imagination and creativity, the response of passions to beauty and sufferings, and the transience of human life in time” p 8.

Ode to a Nightingale was one of the most popular odes of John Keats considering he had written other very popular and well developed odes. The choice of a nightingale can be questioned, but the answer to that is a Greek legend which explains the evolution of the nightingale as a bird and how it is supposed to have a magical voice. Keats is considered an important patron of the Romanticism especially in Britain. If this is true, then this certainly is his masterpiece (Leeds 19).

The poem Ode to a Nightingale gives the descriptions of series between reality and romantic ideal for union of nature. It is the existence of struggle between the real and ideal that have the antithesis of pain and pleasure. It is the sense of fulfilling the imagination and the fullness the performance change in humans and nature. He is addressing the nightingale in a forest as being an object of empathy and praise in the poem where it gets its name, Ode to a Nightingale. He is not envious of the nightingale’s happiness but is glad to share it with her. The discussion does not concern the bird and its song but the experience of humans, as the song signifies the complex image which is being formed by the interaction of voices of praise and empathy.

There is a connection of the song to the music produced by the urn in Ode on a Grecian urn that was connected to the sculpture art. Thus, the nightingale has the representation of presence that is enchanting, which has a direct connection tom nature unlike in the urn. The natural beauty is lacking in the song as there is no true message, as he follows the belief of Coleridge by losing himself in the separation of the world from the song. The previous depictions in the poem had the melancholic feels that is lacking in this happy songbird, which is the only voice in the poem.

There is the highlight of desire for alcohol, and the speaker wants to get drunk and enjoy like the nightingale. The nightingale’s voice has the power of compelling the narrator in joining the song so that he forgets the world and its sorrow, but there is the guilt in regard to the toms and his brother death as held by the narrator (Leeds 19). Three is the representation to give up the troubles and problems associated with the human life to disappear from the world to the fantasy realm. He wants them to fade away so that he can enjoy and be like the nightingale, carefree and singing. The speaker detests the lack of permanent happiness as there is the idea of mortality associated with the human life depicted in phrases such as, youth “grows pale, and specter-thin, and dies,” and “beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes.”

There is the narrator’s abandoning of his sense so that he can embrace the song by sharing darkness with it. The narrator is left wondering whether it was real vision or just a dream as he was left broken after the song ended. The poem is relying on the sleeping process that is always common to his poems as there is the sharing of themes. The nightingale is depicted to be mysterious with its disappearing at the end of the poem. It is the elusiveness the poem tries to emphasize in the dream image as the elements in the poem does not complete the nightingale and the self identification allowing only the self awareness.  

The poem has splits with the first trying to identify the bird, and the song and the other is the convergence of past with the present with the present experiences. This is the reminder of the progress of human and how the development of man is from the experience of wanting pleasure only for him to understand that pleasure and pain are mixtures of truth. The nightingale fly away, and the speaker fly with it in a drunk manner but through the poetry. He wants to glide away from the trouble of the human life and experience happiness of nature like the nightingale experiences. This are the moments of pleasure that do overwhelm an individual like drug with a short lasting experience of pleasure as the narrator is depicted as being left without pleasure as the body has the desire for it. Thus, the narrator has to hide in the poem because of loss of pleasure and does not want to embrace the truth. The pleasure asked by the narrator is not brought, but it is only liberating him from the desires of pleasure. The fifth and sixth stanzas pay specific attention to this aspect of nature’s beauty and how it is fascinating for the speaker.

There is the progression of association that makes the feeling movements being at the mercy of the words that by chance were evoked.  The acceptance to the loss of pleasure is the acceptance of life and later death as it is the constant theme of Keats poetry because of her exposure to it. Keats has been extremely popular for his odes and their multiple themes via these odes. Ode to a Nightingale is one of a kind. The poet’s speaker is involved in the exploration of themes regarding the creative expression and mortality of human life. Ode to a Nightingale seems to enlighten the reader with the method of the transience of life. Human life is not eternal, and man seems to keep growing old till the point when he/she dies. This theme of pleasure loss and the inevitable death is thus describing the inadequate pleasure and romantic escape to the worlds of beauty from the real world. Changes in the levels of life and mortality are displeasing as the speaker life young and beautiful like the singing of a nightingale.

The poem is depicting that humans are in search of the mystery in the unsuccessful quest for its light in the darkness, that only lead to increase in darkness, thus; their recognition of how impossible the mystery is to the mortals. The pleasure and death incorporation gives the poem a darker environment that connects the other poems to the imagination of demonic nature. The poem focuses on the immortality of nature when compared to the mortality of mankind. However, even if Nature has creatures that die and mortal nature in its essence never dies but continues forever.

The bird has no consciousness as man has and, therefore, the nightingale is part of the nature and merges in its essence. This is the very aspect which causes the speaker to label the nightingale as immortal. The bird is certainly part of the nature of immortality. This is because the bird is not in conflict with its surrounding but merges in it. This is what is very different in mankind. The contrast that is made between the immortal bird and the mortal human has been made more acute by the imaginations effort which the poet has been eager to highlight John Keats has written a whole series of odes but what makes this one unique is the contrast between Nature and man. This stresses upon the Romanticism much effectively as for Nature there is no end, and it is immortal. Mankind in the other hand is restricted and with the competition they have and the lack of reconciliation makes a man a mortal being. Man can never compare himself with the greatness of Nature (Shmoop p10). Nonetheless, the Ode to a Nightingale is a well expressed love for Nature and John Keats’s message is very clear for the reader. This is a very epic ode appreciated by critics.

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