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I think that Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" represents the aspirations of art and artists in its hopeful grasp to escape the drudgery of reality and aspire to an idyll where nightingales sing. I sense that the opening stanzas of the poem are ones that identify a need to escape. Within these lines, one gets the impression that the true artist is one set apart from the herd mentality of the rest of society. The true artist, according to Keats, seeks to move his sense of identity into a realm where truth beauty and art exists. This is something that can only be appreciated by a select few, and the opening stanzas suggest this. Evidence of this can be seen with the first three words of "My heart aches," almost implying that the artist possesses a heightened sensitivity that others lack. The artist seeks sanctuary in alcohol, but that is only temporary and will only "fade away" the artist's pain, and not much else. In the third and fourth stanza, we see the artist reconfigure themselves. The speaker begins to understand that there is a need to seek something better, something more elevated, something more of an idyll. This can only be accomplished, not through alcohol, but rather through poetry and art (Away! away! for I will fly to thee,/ Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,/ But on the viewless wings of Poesy,"). It is here where the portrait of the artist emerges for Keats, and it is poetry and art that will allow the thinker, the artist, to reach that realm where the nightingale singes its song, heard and appreciated only by the imperceptible few. In this striving, the artist achieves something close to immortality. In a world of impermanence and mutability, the artist can achieve something that few can: A lasting testament to the good, the true, and the beautiful. As the poem closes, the speaker understands that this vision is so much an idyll, that he thinks of it as a dream. The poem's lasting meaning is that it is in the realm of art where greatness can happen and can be realized. While other pursuits, like Keats' own medicine, are noble, poetry and art is what sustains the soul, allowing it to aspire where only the nightingales dare to tread.
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