Ode to a Nightingale Commentary

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Ode To a Nightingale

    In Keats’ 19th century poem, Ode To a Nightingale, he comments upon the short-lived nature of human life and the concept of mortality through using a contrasting image of a nightingale. In the poem, the narrator speaks of this bird yearningly, envious of its ability to remain immortal through it’s song, and of its detachment from the human world. It is clear that the narrator is experiencing feelings of melancholy, and he discusses a personal escape from an existence tainted by suffering, which he feels he can no longer endure. He is addressing the nightingale he hears singing somewhere in the forest and says that his “drowsy numbness” is not from envy of the nightingale’s happiness, but rather from sharing it too completely; he is overwhelmingly happy that the nightingale sings the music of summer from an unseen plot of green trees and shadows.     The poem is clearly very biographic; the narrator undoubtedly represents Keats himself, and is in no way a surrogate persona, made apparent by the constant references to subjects very personal to the author; when speaking of the harsh realities of the mortal world, he describes it as a place “where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies”, making a direct reference to his young brother Tom, who at the time was dying from tuberculosis. The narrator’s suffering is Keats’ own, as is the desire to escape from it, as Keats’ was experiencing a period of the intense melancholy which accompanies watching someone you love die.    “Ode to a Nightingale” is written in ten-line stanzas. The regular metrical structure of the poem effectively intensifies the already dejected tone of the piece. There is irony in that while praising the song of the nightingale, the speaker’s speech patterns echo that of a lullaby. The sound devices in the poem also reinforce the speaker’s oppressed mood, which is perfectly exemplified in line 40. “Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways”. This line is loaded...
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