Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats

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Ode To A Nightingale Critical Appreciation

Explain the critical appreciation of John Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale."

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Ode to a Nightingale” (1819) is a Horatian Ode written primarily in iambic pentameter. The poem, composed after John Keats heard a nightingale outside his window, is a consideration of death, the apprehension of material beauty and the fascination of a world of deterioration. Keats was greatly admired in the Romantic poetic circle and “Ode to a Nightingale” stands as one of his most famous poems. Perhaps this is, in part, because the poem’s central figure, the nightingale, remains elusive and ambiguous. For instance, the line “ Already with thee!” in the fourth stanza signals, to many critics, that the poet has entered a trance. This is particularly interesting because Keats was not known to take mind altering drugs, for instance opium, like other Romantic poets such as his contemporary Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Ambiguous language, such as found in this line, contributes to the poem’s universal appeal and allows modern readers to connect to the themes and motifs of the work. It is also noteworthy to consider how “Ode to a Nightingale” continues themes of subjectivity and self-consciousness that are found in his other works, such as “Ode on a Grecian Urn” or “To Autumn.” In these poems, specifically in “Ode to a Nightingale,” Keats elaborates on the power of the imagination to escape ordinary, and often painful, reality. For instance, in the sixth stanza Keats writes:

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time

I have been half in love with easeful Death,

Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme,

To take into the air my quiet breath;

Now more than ever...

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