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John Keats Nightingale - Romantic Poetry Analytical Paper

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November 10, 2015

Romantic Poetry Analytical Paper (Revision II)

John Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” is a Romantic work of poetry in which Keats employs the use of two themes, nature and consciousness, to express his appreciation for the nightingale and nature and his desire to escape the human world of misery. Nature, combined with consciousness, plays a large role throughout the poem as Keats experiences different forms of consciousness, through which he uses the nightingale and its song to delineate nature and find a way to a state of happiness and purity.

​          Nature is a vital theme in “Ode to a Nightingale” as Keats uses the nightingale and its song to describe nature and what it represents. Keats, in the end of stanza one, describes the nightingale as, “Light-winged Dryad of the trees” which “In some melodious plot / Of beechen green, and /shadows numberless, / Singest of summer in full-throated ease.” In doing so, Keats is literally describing the nightingale as a wood nymph, which in Greek Mythology represents beautiful maidens that personify features of nature such as trees, waters, and mountains. He says that the nightingale also sings songs of summer in a forest. In stanza two, Keats writes, “O for a draught of vintage, that hath been / Cooled a long age in the deep-delved earth, /Tasting of Flora and the country green, / Dance, and Provencal song, and sun-burnt mirth! / O for a beaker full of the warm South, /Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene, / With beaded bubbles winking at the brim, /And purple-stained mouth;” Keats is asking for a wine which is a product of the nature and which tastes like nature. Nature here represents purity, freshness, and happiness. And we know that such a drink does not exist; Keats wants it in order to leave the misery of the real word and experience nature and the freshness and bliss it stands for. In stanza four, he writes, “Already with thee! tender is the night, / And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne, /Clustered around by all her starry fays,/ But there is no light,/ Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown/ Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.” We know that since the wine he asks for in stanza two does not exist, he will use “viewless wings of Poesy” or his poetry and imagination to get to the nature or world where the nightingale resides.  And when he is with the nightingale in its world, the moon rises like a queen on her throne, surrounded by stars who portray fairies. And he compares the nightingale’s world to reality where there is not light from the moon or the stars which implies his desire to be within nature with the nightingale; away from his pain, misery, and reality where there is darkness.

One other theme that is woven into the poem is consciousness. Keats is constantly in and out of different forms of consciousness. In stanza one, Keats states, “My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains/ My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk, /Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains/ One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk.” This demonstrates that Keats is feeling numb and senseless as if he has been drinking hemlock, a poison that gradually takes away a person’s senses. And it is evident is stanza two that he wants to leave his miseries behind and “fade away into the forest dim” with the bird as he asks for “draught of vintage” that is not possible. Keats, in the third stanza, describes human life as conscious but temporal as he states that people will turn old and sick, love will eventually die, and beauty will not last forever. And in stanza four, he writes, “Away! Away! for I will fly to thee,/ Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, / But on the viewless wings of Poesy.” This means that, he does not want to use alcohol or drugs to be with the nightingale and find happiness and that he will use his poetry and imagination to get there. From stanzas five through seven, he is with the nightingale and describes its song until, he is realizes that the nightingale’s song has ended as he says, “Forlorn! the very word is like a bell/ To toll me back from thee to my sole self!” And the last two lines are, “Was it a vision, or a waking dream? / Fled is that music: -- Do I wake or sleep?”  We see that Keats is undoubtedly confused of about the nightingale’s song as he does not know if it was a dream or reality. And in the line above that, shows that imagination does not deceive a human mind as we think it can, and this leads Keats to wonder if the nightingale, and his blissful moments with it were just a mere vision or reality.

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