Keats’s odes, on the level of superficial reading can be seen as a brilliant rendering of a scene, a season or a mood; the final perfection of English landscape poetry. The two odes, namely, “Ode to a Nightingale” and “Ode on a Grecian Urn” appeal directly to the physical senses through a recognition of the physical reality of experience. However, such simplified conclusion is misleading as it disregards the poet’s complex thought process- where sensuousness and contemplation get unified.
The central themes of the two poems are neither a nightingale nor an urn, but, the poet’s eternal search for a center of refuge in a world of flux. It is through such a conception that Keats sets to resolve the dichotomy between the world of the ideal and that of reality within the order of experience.
In “Ode to a Nightingale”, the poet addresses a bird which appeals to his physical senses and seeks to unite with it. In the beginning, the poet is seen in a state of trance, happy beyond human endurance in his empathy with the bird’s song. Yet, he oscillates between the world of imagination and reality unable to reconcile them. At this moment, the wine, “cool’d a long age in deep delv’d earth” becomes an agent to carry him to the platonic ideal state of perfection but ironically fails to make him win over his mortality. His desire to escape grows and seems almost fulfilled in the fourth stanza- he feels himself placed with the nightingale- amidst the forest which is so dark’ that even the presence of a throned moon is conjectural. “Already with thee”- he exclaims in recognition of an identification of himself with the spirit of the bird.
However, the very same statement presupposes “I” and “Thee” and indicates that this is not a true union, since, in a perfect union, the individual entities fuse to form a whole. The poet fails to become one with the bird, he can only “accompany” the bird (be with it). He realizes, as he...