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A critical appreciation of Keats' "ode to a Nightingale"

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A critical appreciation of Keats' "ode to a Nightingale"

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  • August 9, 2004
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John Keats, a poet of the romantic era, composed this poem in the spring of 1819. Being a poet of the Romantic era, he was a Nature lover, but instead of looking at Nature as a guide or teacher, he was in pursuit of beauty within Nature. The romantic poets emphasized on emotions, they believed in the power of imagination and experimented with new ideas and concepts. Keats is generally considered the most tragic of the Romantic poets as he was faced by a series of sad experiences in his life. The poem was written a few months after the death of the poet's brother.

Ode to a Nightingale is one of the five "spring ode's " composed by Keats. He emphasized on sensuousness, that is, his works appealed to all the five senses of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. An ode is a lyric, which is lofty in style and is usually addressed formally to its subject.

Greek and Roman mythology were inspiration for his poetry. Medieval elements and romances and Arthurian legends were incorporated into his poetry. He had the gift of a vivid and picturesque imagination that fills his poetry with a brilliant sense of imagery.

The poet begins by explaining the nature and cause of the sadness he is experiencing. This sadness is converted into physical ache and "drowsy numbness". He feels as if he might have consumed some sort of drug to ease his pain, this resembles the qualities of the Lethe, a river in Hades, the underworld, where the dead drank and went into total oblivion and lost all senses. The feeling is a result of the deep awareness of happiness of the nightingale he hears singing; his resulting pleasure is so intense it has become painful. The nightingale is referred to the "light winged Drayad of the trees", implying that it is a tree nymph. Dwelling amidst the darkness of the trees in a forest, it sings unconstrained. The poem shows the contrast between the poet, who is earthbound and the nightingale, which is free and possesses seemingly ethereal qualities. The poet...