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Ode to a Nightingale

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  • April 2007
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After losing his mother and brother to tuberculosis, and developing signs of the sickness himself, John Keats begins to analyze life and death in his personal poem "Ode to a Nightingale" (Stott, Jones, and Bowers 144). Keats's symbolism of the Nightingale and the contrast between life and death reveals his changing view of life resulting in the belief of death being his means to overcome pain. Keats begins this revelation by describing the beauty of life, but his use of fantasy words foreshadows a change in his outlook. By using the symbolism of the nightingale, Keats becomes uncertain of his view of life and begins to ponder the concept of death. In the conclusion, Keats feels deceived by the nightingales representation of life, and desires death to overcome his pain instead of enduring it in life. As Keats continues his thoughts, he becomes more and more skeptical of life. Fascinated by the nightingale, Keats recognizes the birds innocence: "What thou among the leaves hast never known,/The weariness, The fever, and the fret" (3.22-23). One would fret when uneasy or uncertain towards a matter. Keats reveals that the nightingale is oblivious to the concept of death as he sings his melody. The nightingale is completely free for he does not know about death. Keats becomes tormented by the innocence and freedom of the bird, as all of Keats' uncertainties regarding life and death overwhelm him: "Where but to think is to be full of sorrow" (3.27). Living his life brings a constant reminder of his pain, driving Keats to change his opinion of life and death. In the sixth stanza, Keats reveals his desire to die: "Now more than ever seems it rich to die, to cease upon the midnight with no pain" (6.55). His pain is so overwhelming that even death would be a better option than living with the pain. Keats then speaks of the nightingale as a "deceiving elf" (8.74), because of the distracting effect of its music. Keats realizes this fantasy world the nightingale...

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