Ode To A Nightingale
In the Ode To A Nightingale, reference is made to the song of the nightingale. The song aroused in Keats a longing to escape with it from this world of sorrows to the world of ideal beauty. This is one of the most fantastic aspects of the poem.
The first stanza opens with : "My heart aches...," which means that Keats's heart aches and his whole body is benumbed upon hearing the song of the nightingale. He feels as if he has taken a poison or drug which has created the effect of numbness in him. In fact, he is not jealous of the nightingale's lot but is too saturated with happiness by the song. He calls the nightingale : "...light-winged nymph of the trees." The way Keats describes the nightingale over here is simply wonderful. For us the nightingale is only a mere living thing but for him it is an aspect of beauty and a million of reasons to be transported to a dreamworld. We can observe how he is a poet full of imagination and great thoughts.
In the second stanza Keats wants to join the nightingale. He craves for some kind of wine and intoxication to enable him to leave this world of reality and to escape into the forest where he can join the bird. We can see how his imagination carries him from one point to the next. Over here, the nightingale and its songs have given way to other thoughts-those of wine. Keats wants to have wine so as to be able to escape from this harsh and ruthless world. He dreams a lot and wants to be where beauty does not end and where he can forever hear the melody of the nightngale's song.
In the third stanza, the miserable side of life is portrayed. Keats describes the world as a place where there is : "weariness, fever, and fret...." He wishes to forget himself and escape from this world of perplexity and sorrow, and be into the forest in the company of the nightingale. The way he describes life as being full of "weariness", "fever", and "fret" appeals to our senses. The picture of life depicted by Keats is depressing, realistic and convincing. The nightingale is believed by the poet to be happy because it is not human and it has never known the "weariness", the "fever" and the "fret" of this world.
Keats knows that he can never reach the nightingale, so he uses his imagination to fly into the forest. He even rejects Bacchus who is the God of wine and intoxication and seeks the help of poesy. Now he brushes aside the gloomy thoughts and tries to bring us into a happy mood. He knows well how to create this atmosphere of gaiety. The way by which Keats shifts us from a gloomy atmosphere to an atmosphere where the shining of the moon and stars are described is simply remarkable and marvellous. Seeking refuge in poetic fancy, he draws pleasure from the glory of nature.
In stanza five, he describes the flowers. He tries to give a response to the sensuous beauty of nature. In the following stanza, he desires for death. As he hears the song, he remembers how on many occasions in his life he has wished for death that would bring a release from the burden of existence. The interesting part is the change of Keats's mood. His mood always undergoes a change at each stanza. He is neither in ecstasy nor in a mood of sorrow but wishes to die in this stanza. The desire for death is obviously an unhealthy one but for him it is a wish highly desired. Keats surely impresses us.
The poet then contrasts the mortality of human life with the immortality of the nightingale. He argues that the nightingale's song has not changed for years. It is the same song heard by all the emperors and also by the miserable Ruth. He takes the song as a symbol of permanence. Generations pass, yet the song of the nightingale continues from age to age. It is mind-blowing to read that Keats considers the song of the nightingale as permanent and endless.
However, the most mesmerising fact about Keats is that he always comes back to reality. He never misses to return to real life. Till now he was living in his imagination but he knows that ultimately, he has to face the truth. As the song of the nightingale becomes more distinct, his imagination which had carried him to the forest also declines and the poetic vision also fades. He has to move back to the common world of reality. The ode which opens on a note of ecstasy, ends on a note of frustration. He ends the stanza by asking "...was it a vision, ...Do i wake or sleep?"
The poem is a beautiful example of lyrical poetry and has been written in a very superb and magnificent style. It undoubtedly displays Keats's power as a master of poetic language at its highest. It also reveals Keats's sense of tragedy of human life in general and his sense of personal suffering in particular. There is always this desire to escape from the realities of life and go far away where beauty is long-lived.
But life with all its "fever","fret" and "weariness" has to be lived.