Could you please provide a summary for John Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale"?

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iandavidclark3 | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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On a rudimentary level, John Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" is an elaborate response to the natural world. On a more complex level, it becomes an artist's rumination on the nature of art and the human condition. The poem begins with the speaker imagining himself in a nearly drugged state while listening a nightingale's song. The speaker wishes to numb himself with alcohol to escape into the carefree world the bird inhabits, and then he meditates on the bird's separateness from the miserable human condition and from human mortality. Then, the speaker briefly contemplates death as a way to escape the brutal reality of the world. The speaker then imagines the bird as an immortal concept present at various states in history, and then the poem ends with the narrator wondering whether his perception of the nightingale was real or a dream. Though seemingly simple, "Ode to a Nightingale" is actually subtly complex, as Keats ultimately uses the symbol of the nightingale as a device that allows him to explore human mortality and the nature of human life on Earth.

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