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Critical Analysis of Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats

Critical Analysis of "Ode to a Nightingale" by John Keats

John Keats poems “Ode to a Nightingale” and “Ode on a Grecian Urn” exist for the purpose of describing a moment in life, such as a brief song of a nightingale and scene depicted on an urn; within each moment there exists a multitude of emotions, and changing from one to another indefinably. Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” deals with the perplexing and indefinable relationship between life and art. Paradoxically, it is the life of the urn that would normally associate with stillness, melancholy and bereavement that is shown to be representative of life. In “Ode to a Nightingale” a visionary happiness is communing with the nightingale as its song is contrasted with the dead weight of human grief and sicknesses, and the transience of youth and beauty. The odes are similar in many ways as in both Keats depicts the symbols of immortality and escapism, and grief to joy. However, the symbol of nightingale is a reality dealing with the nature and the urn is a fantasy, a piece of art. Both require different senses for admiring. By comparing the elements of poems, it is evident that all aspects relate directly to the human spirit and emotions.

The nightingale and urn are symbols of immortality, a symbol of continuity of nature and art respectively. In the “Ode to a Nightingale” Keats contrasts the birds’ immortality with the mortality of human beings as he states “Here where men sit and hear each other groan, where Palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs, where youth grows pale, and specter-thin, and dies,”(III, 25) but the nightingale, entertaining generations after generations has become an immortal species, so much so that the sound that poet has heard was heard in ancient days by emperor and clown, by Ruth (a virtuous Moabite widow who according to Old Testament Book of Ruth, left her own country to accompany her mother-in-law Naomi, back to Naomi’s native land), where she was amidst the corn, remembering her home town; and also by fairies. The urn in the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is a large sculpted vessel with Greek figures is an “unravished bride”(I, 1), an immortal perfect object unmarked by the passage of time. As a “Sylvan historian”(I, 3), it provides a record of a distant culture. Although, the urn exists in the real world, which is...

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