FAO Stephen, Despondence, scholars etc

Discussion on the works of John Keats.

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FAO Stephen, Despondence, scholars etc

Postby Matt » Mon Jun 21, 2004 12:50 pm

Hello there.

I have my Keats exam tommorrow at lunchtime. I have a few questions concerning 'Ode to A Nightingale', and I wonder if any of you could shine some light or discuss your opinions in relation to mine.

1) "But here there is no light"
"I cannot see what flowers are at my feet"
"In embalmed darkness..."

Do these quotes mean then that Keats or the voice of the poem is in darkness in that they are not literally with the nightingale and that in fact it is just imagination that enables them to interact with what the Nightingale sees and experience. Therefore you could say, if the poet is imagining his journey with the nightingale, that he in fact cannot actually see the 'boughs' etc and so it is fair to say that he is in a kind of darkness. Any thing he does see is through imagination. Is this theory correct?

2) In the famous stanza 6 Keats says that he has 'been half in love with easeful death' and that 'Now more than ever it seems rich to die....while thou (the nightingale) art pouring forth thy soul abroad In such an ecstasy!' I do not understand why it seems rich to die? Is it that Keats realises he will never fully be able to escape the world he lives in and join the world of the nightingale meaning that his life is not worth living?

3) The Nightingale. Does the Nightingale represent anything in particular? Nature, Poetry etc? Any theories? It seems that particularly in the last two stanzas that the Nightingale is definately representative of something although I am unclear as to what? Perhaps it is just a Nightingale?

Thank you, Your thoughts and comments will be greatyl appreciated.

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The nightingale is a symbol of the poet himself

Postby Saturn » Mon Jun 21, 2004 11:02 pm

I think myself that the nightingale in the poem is a metaphor for the poet himself, to what Keats was aspiring to be - free and boundless to reel in the skies of the imagination, not chained to the human lot of toil and sorrow.

However he feels unable to fly to the heights which are above his head - he is in a metaphorical darkness of impotence and artistic frustration, unable to recognise the flowers at his feet - i.e. perhaps what his work is grounded on - the basic tools of his work which are plentious as a carpet of flowers - perhaps the mind (given to us all is imagination, but the poet sometimes delves further into the crevises of the brain).

He is in 'embalmed' darkness maybe because he feels a sense of stagnation and prolonged decay, hermetically sealed from the world of the nightingale - we are all in the same position, we are in slow process of continual decay, but cocooned to the reality of death.

All this is of course a personal response to the poem, and from what I remember of English Literature A-level, you are not really given credit for a personal reading if it doesn't conform to the 'accepted' meaning as approved by chalk headed professors of literature.
This is just one of the gripes I have at the teaching of poetry in school. You only have to watch 'Dead Poets Society' to know what I mean - carpe diem!

Anyway, the best of luck on your exam (don't use any of my ideas or you'll fail!!) and please tell us on here when you get the results how you did - I'm sure all on John-Keats.com hope you do well.

P.S. have you ever tried the old writing stuff on your arm trick (I didn't say that, okay)
"Oh what a misery it is to have an intellect in splints".
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