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The main theme of Ode to a Nightingale and, to an extent, most of Keats odes, deal with the conflicted nature

of human life. It can be further separated into distinct themes. This ode is considered by some to be among the more literal, concrete, and descriptive of his odes. Keats focuses on immediate tangible emotions from which the reader draws a conclusion or abstraction. There are many references to Greek mythology and ancient cultures. y y y Pain vs. pleasure Passion vs. numbness Mortality vs. immortality o Life vs. Death o Finite vs. Infinite Reality vs. delusions Unattainability of something ethereal

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In essence, this ode describes a person falling into trance while listening to a nightingale s song. The first and most obvious pattern that can be observed is the consistent use of ten lines per stanza, for all eight stanzas. It is also apparent that each stanza is metrically variable. That is, each stanza follows one basic metric pattern, but specifics vary from stanza to stanza. For example, all lines in each stanza save for the eighth line is written in iambic pentameter, an arrangement of syllables in order to produce five pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables creating a Duh-DUH, duh-DUH, duh-DUH, duh-DUH, duhDUH effect. As Shakespeare was the most well-known practitioner of the iambic pentameter, these lines are somewhat reminiscent of both Shakespearean sonnets, and thus Petrarchan sonnets, often characterized by their common theme of unattainable love. The eighth line, contrary to the iambic pentameter, is written in trimeter. That is, there are three accented syllables instead of five. For example, line 8, In some me-lo-di-ous plot, contains three stressed syllables as opposed to line 2, My sense, as though, of hem-lock I had drunk. The second most obvious pattern is the constant rhyming pattern within each stanza. Unlike most of his other Odes, the rhyming pattern stays the same throughout the entire poem. This pattern is the most basic and most recurring scheme in the entirety of all of Keats odes, and can be summarized simply as the sequence ABABCDECDE. The duplet-triplet transition is a recurring schematic across much of this poem, with its presence in both the stresses of the syllables (iambic pentameter transitions to trimeter, and vice-versa), the rhyme schematic (AB-AB transitions to CDE-CDE), and even the length of vowels. These vowel patterns are called spondees, arrangements of long-long vowels, such as in the phrase long age. When placed between short, sporadic bursts of short vowels, these spondees serve to evoke a sense of phonetic reminiscence of the relaxed glide in between flaps during the flight of a bird. There is also a reliance on complex assonance, a sort of word association between the pronunciations of words. In line 35, the eh sound in already is assonant with the eh sound in tender, and the ih sound in with is assonant with the ih sound in is. In line 41, the sound in cannot is assonant with the sound in at, while the sound in see is assonant with the sound in feet. Another important point is the use of caesurae, or the complete pause. It is often used in the ode in sets of twos and threes, and draws from the reader a sense of a cliff-hanger, and may evoke the image of a bird resting its wings before suddenly taking flight yet again.

Finally, there is a sort of interior stitching between words found between subsequent stanzas. Fullthroated to vintage from stanzas one to two, fade away/forest dim to fade far away from stanzas two and three, beyond to away from stanzas three and four, no light/glooms to cannot see from stanzas four to five, eves to darkling from stanzas five to six, requiem to immortal from stanzas six to seven, and finally forlorn to forlorn from the seventh stanza to the last. STANZA ONE My heart aches y y Begins poem with seemingly negative diction, establishes a melancholic atmosphere Heartaches are generally associated with longing and desire, especially for something unattainable. This something can be either something from the past, as when one misses something lost and desires the experience once more, or of the desire for the experience of something yet to be experienced.

A drowsy numbness pains y Drowsy numbness can refer to two states of consciousness. o One, a literal interpretation of drowsy referring to what is generally referred to the state of pre-lucid dreaming, a state in which the subject is confused as to whether they are dreaming or not, and typically cannot move their body. o Two, the state of intoxication, whether by drug influence, alcohol influence, or influence of ecstasy. Numbness literally means the inability to feel with one s sense of touch. However, it can also mean emotionlessness or deliberate ignorance, demonstrating the observer s inability to relate with the song of the nightingale. There is an oxymoron the observer feels intense passion, and yet it is numbness that brings pain to his sense. This is a testament to how passion left unchecked often clouds one s judgement and thus brings pain to the individual. The nightingale s song thus invokes a deep passion in the observer that invites him into a reverie that he, being unable to relate, is pained, held down by his chains as a human, which is elaborated upon in later lines.

My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk y Sense, as described before, may refer to one s judgement. However, it can also refer to the literal five physical senses of the human body. The song of the nightingale invoked a passion in the observer that sent him into a sort of trance which inhibits his senses as though he had taken in hemlock, a highly poisonous concoction made from a plant of the same name. Here, passion, a concept closely tied together with life is contrasted with poison, and thus death.

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains y The interpretation of the act of emptying something into a drain can be associated with discarding something no longer desired or discarding something in favour of something more effectual. Opiate, a narcotic with sleep-inducing properties, is described as being dull. Evidently, it has become ineffectual at its duty and the nightingale s song is used to contrast with the opiate in order to demonstrate that the song is more efficient at doing opiate s job than opiate itself.

One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk: 'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, But being too happy in thine happiness, y Here, the concept of time is introduced. The amount of interpretable content found in the first two lines encompasses a moment that lasted for a mere moment, one minute, and has yet to finish. Indeed, the very notion that one minute of the song could mean so much insinuates the endless possibilities of song, and thus the infinite timelessness of the song. Lethe is a river in Hades of which souls to be reincarnated drunk in order to forget their previous life. Keats inclusion of this river demonstrates desire to do the same, to be free of the chains of human life. Here, Keats reveals the nature of his passion and pain. He is not envious of the nightingale s carefreeness and nonchalance, but rather he is happy for the nightingale and laments that he cannot feel the same. In his happiness for the nightingale, he desires that same happiness. The nightingale does not bear the weight of the responsibilities the average human bears. Keats praises and admires the nightingale for such nonchalance. However, Keats describes the nightingale as being too happy, a notion of perfection. This contrasts to the imperfection of humans, forever haunted by regrets and failures. The nightingale s song is a testament to its nature, as it weaves a song in blissful ignorance of the cruelties of the world. The -wards suffix to the river Lethe indicates a direction, that is, towards Lethe. This first line is used to indicate that subsequent to the first minute, the observer strayed Lethe-wards and sunk into the river, thus indicating his desire to not only drink from the river, but to drown himself within it, an almost excessive desire to transcend his current life. Drunk, drains, and sunk are all words typically associated with a fluid, producing a vivid image of liquid. Depending on the observer, this may range from a mere glass to an ocean.

That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees y y Light-winged refers to the nimble, lithe, and agile nature of small birds, and also their unique elegance. Dryads are figures found in abundance within Ancient Greek mythology. They are tree nymphs, described as youthful and beautiful, often singing or dancing. However, they are described to have a shy disposition and may flee when alarmed. They behave familiar only around the goddess Artemis, a goddess of the wildlands and mistress of the animals. Dryads are generally long lived, contributing to the immortal/long lasting nature of the song. A fitting metaphor for the nightingale.

In some melodious plot of beechen green and shadows numberless y Keats adds the descriptor melodious to describe a plot. Plot can refer to: o A plan or scheme. When used in this context are often associated with ulterior motives. Keats use of some, however, leads the observer to believe that though aware, the nature of the plot is obscured in ambiguity. The ulterior motive cannot be identified as malicious or virtuous, especially when considering the following line. Beechen green and shadows numberless provide contrasting imagery, one of nature and peace and one of dread, darkness, and unrest. o A graphics term used when graphing a mathematical equation or relationship. Irrelevant.

A narrative term, used to define the story of a literary work. Used in this context, Keats describes the nightingale as being a part of a larger scheme, nature. This scheme is described again as being ambiguous when the following line is taken into consideration. The contrast between the vitality of nature and the dark obscurity of shadows describes a plotline of a typical story with heartwarming scenes, tragic scenes, suspenseful scenes, and climatic scenes. The ambiguity of the plot is contrasted with the concrete description of the act of the nightingale singing. It is described as singing of summer, a season of life and energy subsequent to the season of birth, spring, with full-throated ease. Full throated ease refers to the unhesitant, unrelenting, and confident voice of the bird, inhibited by nothing, allowing for the ease.

STANZAS TWO-FOUR STANZA FIVE y I cannot see is typically a phrase closely associated with panic and distress, as one s sense has been blinded. However, Keats uses it to describe his inability to see flowers at his feet, nor the soft incense quietly spread across the tree upon which we assume the nightingale is perched. These lines can insinuate either or both of the following. o That he is admitting he had taken for granted the beauty in the simplicity of nature. Flowers generally bring to mind a frail beauty, and the soft incense he refers to denotes the stringy, cotton like seed of the tree, a testament to the eerily sacred anticipation of new life. However, referring to these two specific elements of nature does not insinuate that he is speaking about those two elements alone. The flower is a representation of all things doomed to last only a moment (demonstrating the mortality of living things and non-lasting beauty due to the ravages of time) o That the nightingale s song transcends the said beauty represented by flowers and incense of the trees. Keats is now convinced that the nightingale s song holds much more depth than the temporal things around him. After all, the nightingale s song is a song, a work of art, timeless and immortal. This particularly stresses the theme of the same name. Embalmed, or preserved and thus long lasting darkness, and the use of the word guess offer a sense a ambiguity, suggesting that Keats senses are only proceeding to dull further. Preserved darkness may also refer to the death-wish elaborated upon in the next stanza. Keats uses this line to embark on a descriptive narration of nature, using vivid imagery. However, listing plants with seemingly no connections other than their unremarkable abundance, as well as his use of the descriptor fast-fading, furthers the idea that his senses are failing and his blindness increasing. This can be compared to the blindness of faith as he cannot identify the flowers, yet knows they are at his feet. The significance in the musk-rose is not in the musk-rose itself but its descriptor, that it is coming. Mid-may s eldest child refers to the poem itself, as it was written early on in the month of May. Thus, he is describing his anticipation of the taste of musk-rose and wine in the summer, both objects with an intoxicating stench. The flies serve to hint at the coming death wish, as flies haunt the carcasses of the dead. Murmurous offers a sense of foreboding or approach.

STANZA SIX Darkling I listen y Darkling is a word relating to growing darkness. This is pure imagery, indicating the setting sun, the growing twilight, and the approach of night. This goes hand in hand with the following lines which elaborate on Keats growing suicidal thoughts and admittances to prior suicidal thoughts. with no pain

I have been y

Here, Keats elaborates on the chains that shackle him, preventing him from relating with the nightingale. He first goes in depth about his fascination and curiosity of Death, capitalized as if it were a name, thus personifying the concept. The personification is further evident as Keats refers to it as a male, using the pronoun him to refer to it. Referring to it as though by a name offers a sense of familiarity and somewhat intimacy, as if Keats had long embraced it. Death is also described as easeful, which is somewhat ironic considering death is generally regarded not as something offering comfort or peace or repose, but something that ends it. When Keats admits he has been half in love with Death, he expresses that the nightingale is not responsible for his suicidal thoughts. Rather, he has been contemplating the wonders of death for a time before he heard the nightingale s song. His love is further supported by Keats admittance that he called death soft names in many a mused rhyme. Soft names indicate a certain intimacy, and the many mused rhymes only add to this sense of intimacy evoked from the observer, in addition to supporting the fact of Keats prolonged infatuation with death. He says he called Death to take into the air my quiet breath. This image is synonymous with the descriptor of easeful. Keats also describes his voice as being a quiet breath, or what can be imagined as a sigh or whisper, greatly contrasting with the shrill, vivacious, and vibrant tone of the nightingale s song. A soft death, in which his spirit leaves his body by nothing but an exhalation. Keats then exclaims that it is at this moment, the epitome of his lamenting of his shackles, that it would be most appropriate to cease upon the midnight with no pain. Midnight, the darkest time of night, brings to mind the heavy, absolute, enveloping embrace of darkness. This corresponds to the theme of passion vs. numbness, for it is the passion derived from the nightingale s song that evokes the desire for the numbness provided by absolute darkness. With no pain may refer to passing by sleep, which is relevant because sleep leads one to dreams, and the nightingale has drawn the observer into a dreamlike state.

While thou art become a sod. y This seemingly depressing passage then flows into lines of deep admiration. Keats is expressing that even while he laments of his humanity, the nightingale continues to sing nonchalantly and with an unwavering passion, seemingly disregarding the plights of humans not because of arrogance, but simply because it has never known such impediments. It does not, never has, and never will experience the inhibitions that chain humans to a world haunted by the regrets and torments of each individual. Keats then expresses that he has ears in vain. He is describing his inability to relate with the nightingale and join it in its world. The seemingly transcendent song loses its meaning when falling upon his unfit ears.

He then describes the nightingale s song as being a high requiem, a song made in tribute of repose for the departed. The departed in question may not refer to Keats specifically, but rather the deceased who also held regrets and such in life. To emphasize his inferiority, he likens himself to a sod, an earthen clod of earth.

STANZA SEVEN y y y y Keats exclaims that the nightingale, or rather, its song, was destined for timelessness, and directly calls it immortal. Bird is capitalized to convey a sense of familiarity, as with Death. He goes on to describe the timelessness of the nightingale s song by pondering how the very same song was heard by emperors and clowns of ancient times He makes an allusion to a Ruth, whose role can be capitalized only by experts in the field. The Ruth referred to by these lines is generally interpreted to be the Ruth as described in the biblical book of Ruth, a Moabite whose faith saved her from a curse on her nation and was blessed to become father of David, an ancestor of Joseph, Jesus Christ s human father. However, it is important to note that the biblical story of Ruth has no correlations whatsoever with the Ruth described in Keats poem. She is neither sad, nor sick for home, or ever in tears. Even the alien corn is inapplicable to the biblical Ruth. This Ruth is in fact the protagonist of another poem. Written by William Wordsworth, Ruth or the Influence of Nature details the story of a woman abandoned by her lover in unfamiliar territory, who is then imprisoned but escapes into the sanctuary that is nature, which soothes her heart. Not only is sadness and thus, tears, present in the story, but also homesickness for the past: her old home and life with her lover. In addition to that, Ruth is amid alien corn, a phrase now used to describe that one is alone in a foreign land or alien territory. Each Ruth s descriptions are near identical, thus the Ruth Keats refers to is most likely Wordsworth s Ruth and not the biblical Ruth. Recall that the nightingale s song is a representation of the immortality of art. Immortality here can be defined both as forever-lasting, and forever reaching. That is, its effect on people will not differ no matter where it is heard (unless the beholder has an unnatural hate for bird songs). Ruth, once escaped, sought sanctuary in nature. She finds solace and Is soothed by nature. The home of a bird is, in general, in trees, and thus are part of nature. Thus, the songs of these birds must have played a role in the solace of Ruth. Following this line of thought, one can conclude that the songs of birds helped to elevate Ruth s emotions just as the nightingale s song elevated Keats. In a more general sense, Keats then describes the song as being the same that opened up the imaginations of people and drew them into a world of fantasy, using perilous seas and faery lands as examples. It is important to note that he describes the faery lands as being forlorn. This is a testament to the fact that a world situated in fantasy has been forsaken by reality. It is something that can only be experienced outside of the real world, and this concept of unattainability leads Keats into his final stanza.

STANZA EIGHT y Suddenly, the seven stanzas of development are effectively rendered moot as the fast pace of the eighth stanza resets everything. An almost frantic feeling is conveyed, as if the observer has been shocked out of his reverie. A sudden realization. The feeling one gets when grasping at the frail threads of a dream. The attempt of capturing the moment. Keats is now lamenting that the nightingale s song was unable to keep him in the dream like state. There is an almost accusatory tone, accusing the song of its inability to excel at what Keats identified its purpose to be. Accepting this, he bids farewell to the song as it vanishes, fleeting through a series of seemingly sporadic images. The next valley-glades lends an image of the last notes of the song disappearing into a faraway place. Keats then ponders if he really heard a nightingale at all, or if it was some figment of his imagination, an ethereal embodiment of his fantasy.