AD's English Literature : Analysis Of Keats ' "Ode To A Nightingale" as a Romantic Poem

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Analysis Of Keats ' "Ode To A Nightingale" as a Romantic Poem


Keats occupies a distinctly remarkable place in the realm of romantic poetry . His fame rests on his odes. It is in these odes, that one comes into personal contact with the mind of Keats. And it is here that we experience the depth of Keats ' struggle to control his personal experience and to give poetic expression. In the bitter sweet poignancy of his experiences lies his romanticism. In his control over them lies the Hellenism and classical quality of his poetry. The odes of Keats are as all great poetry is, romantic and classical at the same time.

The Ode To A Nightingale is a romantic poem like Keats ' other odes and deals with a world and experience which are different and remote from the real ones. It presents a contrast between the real world and the world of imagination, of between the world of human being and that of the Nightingale. According to Cleanth Brooks the theme of the poem lies in the paradox -- The world of imagination offers a release from the painful actuality yet at the same time it sounds the world of actuality more painful by contrary.

The Ode To A Nightingale, embodying the very spirit of old romance, is the most voluptuous and passionate in its emotions. At points the emotion threatens to overpower the writer, and a hysterical euphemism here and there jars on the reader. But for the most part the passion, for all its intensity, is focused and controlled. David Masson observes one of the most remarkable characteristics of Keats is the universality of his sensuousness. All of his five senses are equally keen. For example his acute awareness of ' taste ' is reflected in passage like the following:
                     " O , for a draught of vintage , that hath been
                              Cool'd a long age in the deep - delved earth.
                         Fasting of Flora and the country green,
                      Dame and Provencal song and sunburnt mirth.”
His sharp feeling for ' touch ' is evident from the following lines:
            " Nor what soft incense hangs up on the boughs
              But in embalmed darkness guess each sweet
              Where with the seasonable month endows
              The grass, the thicket, and fruit - tree wild".
Such examples can easily be multiplied. But we should remember that Keats is voluptuous not vulgar. He takes infinite delight in sensuousness, but they are marked by a healthy restraint.

The Ode To A Nightingale shows the ripeness and maturity of his poetic faculty. This poem is truly a masterpiece showing the splendour of Keats’ imagination on its pure romantic side and remarkable also for its note of reflection and meditation. The pictorial quality accompanied by sensuousness provides us a picture gallery. If there are lines of fun and frolic, of merry making, dancing and drinking, there is also the magnificent picture of the moon shining in the sky ' clustered around by all her starry Fays '. Keats also draws a romantic image of Ruth. Standing in the corn field she listens to the song of Nightingale and her tears rolls down her cheeks. Her sorry heart is soothed by the song of the Nightingale :
         " Perhaps the selfsame song that found a path
           Though the sad heart of Ruth , when , sick for home ,
           She stood in tears amid the alien corn ".

According to Courthope , poetry and plastic art merge and mingle in the works of Keats .The poem Ode To Nightingale is written superb in style. It displays Keats power as a master of poetic language at its highest. Keats here shows consummate skill in a choice of works and in making original and highly expressive phrase .Keats has used several marvelous pictorial phrases, which condense the essence of an image . For example   -----
' Laden eyed despair ', ' beaded bubbles winking at the brim ' 'the murmurous haunt of flies ', ' charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam / of perilous sea , in faery lands forlorn , etc. 

The touch of supernatural; the mystery and its suggestiveness adds medievalism which is a romantic trend. The charm'd magic casements, ' story of Ruth ' are two beautiful examples. Again his love for classical Greek literature is reflected in the reference of Lethe, Dryad, Flora, Bacchus, Hippocrene etc.

Keats observes and portrays the various aspects of nature in his Ode To A Nightingale like his Sleep and Poetry, Endymion etc. He follows the genuine poetic art and his is the beauty perceived through senses. In his poetry there is addition of strangeness to beauty with slight medieval touches. In Ode To A Nightingale Keats remains a great romantic poet with classical strain in his nature and poetic expression .

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