Explain how Keats's description of the Nile River changes after the volta in "To the Nile."

In "To the Nile," Keats' description of the Nile River changes after the volta in that it moves from describing the Nile as mythological and rather sinister to focusing on the natural aspects of the river.

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John Keats's sonnet "To the Nile" follows the Petrarchan form, which means that the volta (or turn) of the sonnet occurs after the octave (the first eight lines). A sonnet's volta generally brings a shift in perspective, so let's see how that works in this poem.

In the sonnet's first eight lines, the narrator approaches the Nile with a kind of reverence tinged with a bit of doubt. He speaks of how the Nile is mythologically the "Son of the old moon mountains" and the "Stream of the pyramid and crocodile." The Nile was once worshiped as a god, and the narrator alludes to that here.

He also describes the Nile's fruitfulness; it is the green place in the desert that nurses the nations. He seems to hold the Nile up in reverence, but this reverence is not complete, for he also asks the river if it really is so fruitful or if it merely beguiles people into thinking so. This gives the Nile a bit of a sinister aspect.

After these lines, though, the narrator changes his approach to the Nile at line 9. He denies the "dark fancies" of the Nile and turns toward a realistic description of the river, speaking of how it is just like other rivers in making green spaces around it. The sun rises pleasantly over it as it travels happily to the sea. The river is just a natural feature of the landscape, doing exactly what it is supposed to do. It is not divine or threatening. It is just the Nile.

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