John Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale"

             As one reads this poem of John Keats, the overwhelming feeling is the envy the poet feels toward the nightingale and his song. He compared the carefree life of the bird to the pain, suffering and mortality of men. He continually referred to Greek gods and mythology when speaking of the nightingale as somehow the Bird possessed magical powers.

             The speaker opened with the explanation "my heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains my sense" as he listened to the song of the nightingale. He compared his feelings to those of a person that had drunk "hemlock" or an "opiate" so that their senses had become dull, or as if drinking from "Lethe-wards," a river of the lower world, which produced forgetfulness of past life. Keats compared the bird to that of a "Dryad," or a female spirit, which was assigned a certain tree to watch over and whose life was so closely connected to the tree that if it were to die so would the Dryad. Or perhaps in some mysterious way the nightingale's song were "some melodious plot" to enchant his listener. He explained the reason for his envy as being "happy in thy happiness" or because the bird sang so beautifully with "full throated ease." .

             Keats longs for the effects of liquor "draught of vintage" with the taste of the country "flora and country green" which when consumed brings "dance, song and mirth." He compares the song of the bird with the song of his poetry when he wishes to be "full of the true.Hippocrene" which was a mythical fountain on Mount Helicon that inspired poetically. He reflected on the belief that unlike his poetry, the nightingale's song would be remembered for eternity, because the Bird's tune would go unchanged, while his words would fade with time, so he wished "that I might drink and leave the world unseen.".

             Wishing to drink and disappear, to "fade away into the forest dim, fade far away" or rather to "dissolve and .forget" we see how desired to escape from life and the problems that all men must cope with.

Related Essays: