Please describe the meaning of the following lines from "Ode to a Nightingale."I cannot see what flowers are at my feet, Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, But, in embalmèd darkness,...

Please describe the meaning of the following lines from "Ode to a Nightingale."

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,

Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,

But, in embalmèd darkness, guess each sweet

Wherewith the seasonable month endows

The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild; 45

Asked on by hni

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Clearly it is always important to look at such quotes from poems in context rather than taking them out of the poem as a whole and trying to work out a meaning that may not relate to the original poem. These lines come from the fifth stanza and describe the immediate setting of the speaker and point towards the richness of nature at this point in the year and also indicate the darkness of night that the speaker is in. Note the way that the stanza begins with an assertion that the dark is so strong that the speaker is unable to identify the flowers at his feet or the blossoms around him. He is left in "embalmed darkness" to guess at each scent from what he can smell. The impact of this darkness is to create a very rich image based on scent, as, due to the inability of his eyes to pierce the darkness, the speaker must rely on his nose to guess the source of each smell that the "seasonable month" has "endowed." Clearly, the speaker is in a very beautiful part of nature, surrounded by flowers and blossoms, giving "the grass, the thicket, and the fruit tree wild" their own beautiful scent.

However, these lines also include an example of synesthesia as the speaker tries to "see" the incense hanging on the trees and stands in perfumed darkness. Both descriptions in these lines place next to each other the sense of sight in terms of the sense of smell.

shlaroy's profile pic

shlaroy | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

The poet is in the darkness of the forest by the side of the nightingale. He can not see what flowers have blossmed around hin but he can identify each flower by its smell. Annotation: soft insense- fragrant blossoms. Embalmed- perfume. Embalmed darkness- richly darkness.

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