What is a comparison of Keat's poems "Ode to a Nightingale" and "To Autumn"? What do these poems say about Keats as a poet?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Both "Ode to a Nightingale" and "To Autumn" possess the distinctive qualities of the poetry of John Keats: a paced, gracious movement of line and a concreteness of details which have tremendous sensory appeal, accompanied by a delight in the sheer existence of things outside himself. That is, as he composed his verses, Keats tried to immerse himself within that which he admired through the use of "sympathetic imagination."

In "Ode to a Nightingale," Keats feels a tranquil and continuous joy in the song of the little bird that he feels as though his spirit flies with it:

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,...
...on the the viewless wings of Poesy...
Already with thee! tender is the night....

Similarly, in "To Autumn" the poet feels delight in the season that "hast thy music, too." As in "Ode to a Nightingale," the poet delights in the songs of nature:

Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Certainly, too, both poems demonstrate Keats's the indulgent movement of line that is characteristic of his verse. In "Ode to a Nightingale," for instance, lines such as "Fast fading violet cover'd up in leaves" and "The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves" exhibit this enjoyment of verse. And, in "To Autumn," these lines are equally mellifluous:

While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;

In addition, there is in both poems the conflict between the claims of the Imagination and the claims of real life as evinced in the above-cited lines of "Ode to a Nightingale,"

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death

as well as these lines in "To Autumn"

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day

Certainly, both poems of Keats exhibit his Romantic characteristics of a belief in the power of the imagination and emotion, and the superiority of poetry over other studies, such as science. Also, there is the conviction that the contemplation of the natural world is a means of discovery as, for instance, in "Ode to a Nightingale" as Keats writes, 

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death

and in "To Autumn" the poet writes of his newly discovered wonder in Autumn, 

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--

In these poems, too, there is some of Keats's characteristic Negative Capability. As he expresses this, "...when man is capable of being in uncertainties. Mysteries doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason." In both poems under discussion here, Keats is not reaching after fact or for reason. Instead, his is a consciousness of the conditions of life as he observes Nature and considers with it the essence of the human condition.

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