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Compare and contrast the tone and use of nature imagery used by Shelley and...

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iwtb731 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 10, 2010 at 6:06 AM via web

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Compare and contrast the tone and use of nature imagery used by Shelley and Keats.

Compare and contrast the tone and use of nature imagery used by Percy Bysshe Shelley in "Ode to the West Wind" and John Keats in "Ode to a Nightingale"

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kc4u | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted September 11, 2010 at 7:58 PM (Answer #1)

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A very interesting and an equally difficult question. I will attempt an answer, though.

The most basic similarity in the nature-imagery between the two poems, you mention is the Romantic engagement with nature in general. This works almost at the level of an ideology with the Romantics. The natural world in both the poems invites the self into a flight in imagination and the world of nature is that very locus that promises a glimpse of the transcendental. In both the poem, we have a kind of 'unseen presence' of a natural object--the West Wind in Shelley's poem and the song-bird Nightingale in Keats's. They are the natural figures inspiring a poetic journey in imagination.

The tone and mood of these two image-patterns in the two poems are completely different. In Shelley's poem, the central motif is the power of nature, elevated to a mythical level while in Keats's poem it is a lot more subdued. The natural world may have a prospective opening onto the metaphysical in the song of Nightingale, but as Keats realizes, the world of nature is firmly situated in the flux of time and mortality and the tone is thus marked by a kind of melancholy.

The pestilence-striken multitude of leaves in Shelley's poem is the general colour of sickness with which Keats paints his natural world. In the dense forest, there may be an aromatic darkness where the Nightingale's melodious voice is heard, the note of mystery soon reveals itself to be marked with the tragic inevitability of death as in the flux of time where youth grows pale, sick, spectre-thin and then dies. The world of the unseen bird is a promise alright, but at the same time, it has to be 'forlorn' at the end as one has to come back to the dreary shades of death.  This end is quite radically different from the end of Shelley's poem where there is a strong motivational quality and a note of optimism in the famous final pronouncement--"If winter comes, can spring be far behind?"

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 11, 2010 at 9:16 PM (Answer #2)

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When examining the role of nature in both poems, I see the speaker in each attempting to replicate the natural state of perfection found in one realm into another.  Shelley wishes to find artistic immortality, such as the immortality found in nature.  When he envisions the wind being able to occupy a state of immortality, in that it shall always be revered and respected.  It shall always be there.  This is what Shelley, in the form of the speaker, wishes for and seeks to establish through his poetry.  At the same time, Keats' desire to replicate the artistic perfection of the song of the nightingale is another example of how the speaker through Keats' saw an element in nature and wished to duplicate it in his own art.  For Shelley, the coveting of nature is for its immortal nature, the condition that will never let it expire.  For Keats', the envy of nature is for its perfection, a trait he wishes to bring out in his own poetry and art.

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kazihis | Elementary School Teacher | eNoter

Posted December 17, 2011 at 9:38 PM (Answer #3)

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Personification also known as prosopopeia, is a device which attributes human qualities and characteristics to abstract or inanimate things.

For example, in John Keats' poem, "Ode to Autumn," autumn is personified as a female. Autumn is 'humanised' in various ways: it has physical human characteristics (hair, eyes); performs human activities (sit, sleep, look, watch, keep, harvest), and even suffers human weaknesses ( carelessness, being drugged from opium)

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