Ode to a Nightingale by John KeatsBeautiful. Keats addresses the tragedy of life, where men are resigned to sit and hear each other groan...where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies. But he juxtaposes this with the nightingale, his immortal bird, whose song echoes through the ages being heard by the high and mighty and the mean and lowly, a song that the poet himself hears and one he claims that Ruth heard so long ago. The poet at one point (stanza 6) contemplates suicide, claiming to have been half in love with easeful Death, but the song of the nightingale forces him to pause and reconsider the power of its life. The bird seems to function like his John the Baptist, a voice of hope in the wilderness.
Although he died at the age of twenty-five, Keats had perhaps the most remarkable career of any English poet. He published only fifty-four poems, in Prose Home Harriet Blog. Visit Home Events Exhibitions Library. Newsletter Subscribe Give. Poetry Foundation.
The poem is dominated by thoughts of death, underpinned by meditations on immortality and on the finite nature of joy. The previous year, Keats' brother Tom had died from tuberculosis, the illness that had also killed their mother. When writing the poem, Keats was aware that he himself had started to experience the first symptoms of the disease. The poem's rich imagery emphasises a desire for an escape into a world of hallucinogenic bliss, with references to 'drowsy numbness', a 'dull opiate' and wine with 'beaded bubbles winking at the brim'. But the ecstasy brought by the nightingale is itself transient, and as the bird flies away the poet is left back in thoughts of hopelessness.
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth,. Tasting of Flora and the country green,. Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth! O for a beaker full of the .
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John Keats' 'Ode to a Nightingale'
O, for a draught of vintage! Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird! - Founded by Andrew Motion and Julie Blake in , developed by The Poetry Archive with The Full English , and funded by the Department for Education , Poetry by Heart is a national poetry recitation competition open to all pupils and students in England aged between 14 and It is maintained and developed by The Full English as a resource for a national poetry recitation competition and for teaching and learning about poetry.
Keats is in a state of uncomfortable drowsiness. Envy of the imagined happiness of the nightingale is not responsible for his condition; rather, it is a reaction to the happiness he has experienced through sharing in the happiness of the nightingale. The bird's happiness is conveyed in its singing. Keats longs for a draught of wine which would take him out of himself and allow him to join his existence with that of the bird. The wine would put him in a state in which he would no longer be himself, aware that life is full of pain, that the young die, the old suffer, and that just to think about life brings sorrow and despair. But wine is not needed to enable him to escape. His imagination will serve just as well.
According to Brown, a nightingale had built its nest near the house Keats and Brown shared in the spring of Inspired by the bird's song, Keats composed the poem in one day. It soon became one of his odes and was first published in Annals of the Fine Arts the following July. The poem is one of the most frequently anthologized in the English language. The tone of the poem rejects the optimistic pursuit of pleasure found within Keats's earlier poems and, instead, explores the themes of nature, transience and mortality, the latter being particularly personal to Keats. The nightingale described within the poem experiences a type of death but does not actually die. Instead, the songbird is capable of living through its song, which is a fate that humans cannot expect.
In this poem, Keats celebrates the nightingale, a bird with a particularly magical voice. The nightingale is a loaded symbol for Keats because the origins of the nightingale had been so famously explained in the collection of stories called the Metamorphoses , by the Roman poet Ovid. Every good British poet in the 19th century would have known his Ovid, kind of like how every die-hard rock-and-roll fan today would know his Beatles. In Ovid's twisted story, a woman named Philomela is raped by her sister's husband, Tereus, who then cuts out her tongue to keep her from telling the world. Philomela manages to explain the crime to her sister Procne by weaving an embroidery about it.