Ode to a Nightingale


March 16, 2004


Honors Brit Lit


Essay


In Ode to a Nightingale, John Keats, the author and narrator, used descript terminology to express the deep-rooted pain he was suffering during his battle with tuberculosis. This poem has eight paragraphs or verses of ten lines each and does not follow any specific rhyme scheme. In the first paragraph, Keats gave away the mood of the whole poem with his metaphors for his emotional and physical sufferings, for example: My heart aches, and drowsy numbness pains My sense. Keats then went on to explain to the reader that he was speaking to the “light-winged Dryad” in the poem. This bird symbolizes a Nightingale that to many, depicts the happiness and vibrance of life with the way it seems to gracefully hover over brightly colored flowers to get nectar. “Shadows numberless” at the end of the paragraph, signifies the angel of death and spirits that had surrounded Keats. Keats vividly and beautifully described wine: … for a beaker full of the warm South… With beaded bubbles winking at the brim, And purple stained mouth; That I might drink, and leave the he used to bury his fears and emotions about death.


In verse three, Keats expressed that most people enjoy a full life and die old, when he writes: "Here, men sit and hear each other groan; …last gray hairs, Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies..." He felt that youth was a time in one’s life to enjoy. According to him, being rich, popular, beautiful, funny and smart didn’t matter because the angel of death was blind. Keats was afraid of death because of the loved one’s he had to leave behind. He expresses that with the phrase: "And with thee fade away into the forest dim," Keats explained that he had wanted to wander off into the forest so no one would have had to be bothered by him.


In paragraph four, Keats had spoken to the Nightingale and told it to go off and leave him alone because he already had known that death was coming and did not want to be reminded of his sad fate. Keats went on to say: "I cannot see what flowers are at my feet, Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, But, in embalmed darkness…" This meant he did not know what was about to happen, only that he was going to die. He then illustrated all the creatures and things that would live long past him; "The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild… " In paragraph six, Keats had listened to the “Darkling” or Nightingale singing and this had reminded him of how at one time in his life he questioned death and was even infatuated by it because death was an unknown universe when he composed: "…for many a time I have been half in love with easeful Death, Call’d him soft names…" But quickly after he had recalled that memory he stated: "Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain- To thy high requiem become a sod." Here he was saying how the “Darkling” sounded beautiful when it sang but that was just a mask for the fate that it was taking him to; death.


"Thou was not born for death, immortal Bird!" The immortal Nightingale was not put on this earth to bring people to their deaths, according to Keats. Over generations, the bird has warned “emperors and clowns” that death can not be cheated." …the fancy cannot cheat so well As she is fam’d to do…" Here he had stated that the rich could not buy their way out of death because that was all the Nightingale had come to do. The song of the Nightingale had faded and Keats composed," …thy plaintive anthem fades… …and now ‘tis buried deep" and he did not know if it was real or if he had dreamed the whole thing. Keats was not sure if he was still alive or had died when he asks " –Do I wake or sleep?"