how does Keats portray sorrow in Ode on melancholy and Ode to a Nightingale?

Expert Answers info

francis-xavier eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write8 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

What is interesting about both of these poems is that they go significantly beyond a shallow proclamation like, "I'm Sad!"

"Ode on Melancholy" is the shorter of the two poems and is made up of three stanzas. The first stanza stands out as the voice (speaker of the poem) seems to plead to an undisclosed person stricken by the same sorrow that the voice has experienced ("No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist/ Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;").

Within the second stanza, the voice then goes on to suggest other acts that are more fruitful in the place of the acts denounced in the first stanza ("But when the melancholy fit shall fall . . . Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose"). The third stanza explains further how essential it is to allow sorrow to come ("Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine"), because accepted grief, in conjunction with attempts to enjoy life, spawns happiness.

"Ode to a Nightingale" is made up of eight stanzas. Throughout the eight stanzas, the voice expresses a stream-of-consciousness-like shift in thought, emotion, and opinion.

The voice opens with its usual proclamation of sorrow ("My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains/ My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,"). The voice goes on to find solace in a nightingale, or "light-winged Dryad of the trees." The voice frets about his own mortality ("Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,") but slips into a daydream and wishes to be free of worldly pressures.

The voice recognizes the reality of the situation and penultimately asserts that sorrow brought him back ("Forlorn! the very word is like a bell/ To toll me back from thee to my sole self!/ Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well") but ultimately cannot give up entertaining this romanticized version of the surroundings in his head ("Was it a vision, or a waking dream?/ Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?").

Sorrow is portrayed as an accumulation of various experiences and assertions contrasting with each other.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

hophop99 | Student

when he says my heart aches shows sadness and the fact that he is all the time wishing not to die.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Unlock This Answer Now