Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats

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What is a stanza by stanza explanation of "Ode to a Nightingale"?

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This ode by John Keats is based upon the single conceit that the little nightingale that the poet addresses is immortal:

  1. It assumes that the bird is the only one that has ever existed because it looks and acts the same as birds of this species have for centuries.
  2. It assumes that the nightingale is immortal since, unlike humans who fear death, it cannot conceive of death.
  3. It assumes that the bird is immortal because the nightingale stands for the ravished princess Philomela's metamorphized soul.
  • Stanza I

As a Romantic poet, Keats validated emotional expression as an aesthetic source of experience. In this stanza, then, he expresses his unhappiness, saying it is not envy of the bird's lighthearted song of "summer in full-throated ease." 

  • Stanza II

In his melancholy, the poet wishes that he could drink "a beaker full from the fountain of the Muses on Mt. Helicon," where waters of inspiration flowed. With the nightingale, he could disappear into the forest away from his trials in life. Here, the...

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