Compare and contrast William Wordsworth's "Line Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey" and John Keat's "Ode to a Nightingale." How are they similar and different in terms of structure, meter,...
Compare and contrast William Wordsworth's "Line Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey" and John Keat's "Ode to a Nightingale." How are they similar and different in terms of structure, meter, rhyme scheme, tone, and use of Romantic characteristics?
William Wordsworth's "Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" is written in blank verse. That means it is unrhymed iambic pentameter. Each line contains 10 syllables with an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. The lines don't end with a rhyme. Often, the lines do not end with punctuation either, which makes the sentences spill into the next line. This is called enjambment. Its tone is light and conversational. The blank verse helps with that. Wordsworth is reminiscing on being back where he is. He comments on the beauty of the nature around him and the sense of spirituality that it brings him. The poem is right in line with standard Romantic characteristics.
John Keat's "Ode to a Nightengale" is more tightly structured than Wordsworth's poem. It is written in 8 stanzas. Each stanza is 10 lines long. Lines 1-7 and 9-10 are written in iambic pentameter. Line 8 is trimeter. There is a specific rhyme scheme that holds throughout the poem. It is ABABCDECDE. The poem does have Romantic elements to it in that it is nature-focused (specifically on a nightingale). It is not nearly as uplifting as Wordsworth's poem, though. While Wordsworth focuses on the beauty of nature and the sense of peace it brings him, Keats describes himself in a sort of drunken stupor, debates the merits of death, and ends the poem feeling confused by not knowing the difference between reality and dreams.
The differences between the poems are found primarily in their structures, meters, and rhyme schemes. Here is a four-point contrast:
"Ode to a Nightingale" (1819):
- eight ten-line stanzas
- iambic pentameter (except in the eighth stanza)
- ABABCDECDE rhyme scheme
"Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" (1798):
- ode/dramatic monologue hybrid
- five "verse paragraphs" of varying length
- decasyllabic blank verse
Similarities are found in the poems with regard to their Romanticism. Both incorporate emotions, subjectivity, and a reverence for Nature. Wordsworth's speaker reflects on the beauty of the River Wye and its surrounding landscape and uses it for the setting of the speaker's examination of how nature impacts us in different phases of our lives and relates to our triumphs and setbacks. Keats uses the conceit of a nightingale's song to express his speaker's longing to transcend the painful emotions inevitable in human life. His speaker wishes for a release through death but is sustained by the beauty of the bird's song. The tone of both poems is dynamic; the speakers experience complex and at times challenging emotions, and yet both speakers find something uplifting and life-affirming in the natural world.
At first glance, these seem like very different kinds of poems. As the other answers have pointed out, Wordsworth's use of unrhymed blank verse is well suited to the conversational style of his poem; Keats, on the other hand, is much more structured; his verse is ordered into stanzas, there is a clear rhyme scheme, and it possesses a dominant meter.
The poems share certain Romantic themes, particularly the idea that nature, or the contemplation of natural beauty, can be a way into the the poet's internal state. This "poetic sentiment" is common to both poems. Wordsworth, for example, speaks of entering a dreamlike state where he "becomes a living soul" and is able to "see into the life of things." (ll 40-50) Keats has a similar reaction to the song of the nightingale, which makes it seem as if "of hemlock I had drunk." In other words, it is as if he has fallen into a kind of drug-induced trance, which causes him to have a vision of the happy life associated with summer. For each poet, the poetic state, the act of reflecting on nature, generates intense emotion which reveals an alternate way of being. Keats sees the nightingale as the emblem of a life other than his natural life, where "men sit and hear each other groan;" Wordsworth too sees the landscape of the Wye as a refuge against "the fever of the world."