1/06/2019

“Ode to a Nightingale” : Critical Summary.



In the celebrated romantic poem “Ode to a Nightingale”, the poet John Keats contemplates the essence of the ‘immortal’ Nightingale and contrasted it with his own worldly state and the nature of mortal life. In this highly romantic poem, Keats has presented nature, through the Nightingale, as a world of beauty, peace and freedom. The Nightingale lives in harmony with nature; its forest Melody is one of happiness. It “singest of summer in full-throated ease”. The bird, “among the leaves” has never experienced the miseries, pains and sufferings that human beings are subject to.

“Ode to a Nightingale” is about the speaker contemplating his own death. His “heart aches” and he feels “drowsy numbness” as if he drank poisonous hamlock. As he listens to the melodious song of the bird, he feels immense joy. He feels a strong inclination to be United with the happy bird. He wants to transports himself to the “melodious plot/ Of beechen green and shadows numberless” from where the “right-winged Dryad of trees” sings profusely.

In the second stanza, the speaker wishes for a bottle of wine. He looks for a “full beaker” of wine cooled in the earth and tasting of flowers and plants, of dance , laughter and of song from the southern regions of Franch. His desire is to drink the Hippocrene brew of inspiration in order to metaphysically leaves the world's thoughts and fly with the Nightingale to the rich interior of the forest.

In the third stanza, the speaker again wishes to fade away with the Nightingale. He wants to leave the real world because he wished to forget what the immortal Nightingale has never known: fever, fret, groans, palsy shakes, sad grey hairs, paling youth and death. In the real world, to think is to be filled with the sorrows and despairs, and beauty and love end too quickly.

The fourth stanza is kind of a turning point. The speaker, by dint of his imagination, transports himself to the world of the bird. In the fifth stanza, he pictures the Nightingale's world by relying on the romantic poet's best asset: the imagination. In the sixth stanza, the speaker says that he has been “half in love with death” because it would be a relief from misery. The seventh stanza tells of the Nightingale's song throughout history. Clearly, the speaker is drawn to the Nightingale for its mysteriousness and it's beautiful song but also because it conveys to him a sense of Immortality.

In the last stanza, the speaker snaps out of his imaginative reverie and wanders how much of his experience with the Nightingale's song was real and how much was imagined. This poem is about the power of imagination. The speaker's strong imagination makes him put life and death into perspective. The Nightingale's song represents a mysterious Immortality that he can only dream about. Death may be an escape from the sufferings in life, but imagination can give a momentary respite from the grim realities of the real world. Hence, imagination experiences are significant.


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