What general idea does "Ode to a Nightingale " develop?

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The basic idea in keats's Ode to A Nightingale is the conflict between the Ideal and the Real, time and timelessness, mortality and an escape into permanence. The real world for keats is conditioned by flux and mutability, an awareness of which causes pain. This notion of mutability and the...

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The basic idea in keats's Ode to A Nightingale is the conflict between the Ideal and the Real, time and timelessness, mortality and an escape into permanence. The real world for keats is conditioned by flux and mutability, an awareness of which causes pain. This notion of mutability and the anguish resulting from it is explored in all details in stanza 3 where Keates avers that human life, health, beauty and love are all subject to flux and hence result in pain:

The weariness, the fever, and the fret

Here, where men sit and hear heach other groan;

Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,

Where youth grows pale, and specter-thin, and dies;

Where but to think is to be full of sorrow

And leaden-eyed despairs.

The Nightingale's song to keats becomes a potent symbol of his nympholeptic longing for immortality and hence his desire for the rapport with the bird. It is not the biological species that is Keats's concern, but the deathless song it produces. The song appaers to the poet to be too full of the spiriot of unadulterated joy  and hence the poet's interest in the song. He achieves a rapport with the bird "through the wings of poesy''. it is tragically paradoxical that ultimately the imaginative union with the bird braks and the poet is back to his desolate self;

Adieu the fancy cannot cheat so well

As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.

The poem raises deeply tragic questions relating to the possibility of attainment of immortality or the transcendence of pain in the human condition.

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In this poem, Keats develops themes that run concurrent with his other works, the question of the worth of human existence and whether the creative spirit that is inspired by nature, is capable of capturing the true essence of beauty that is expressed in nature and that is a reflection of a world that ordinary mortals cannot see.  Keats feels connected to the world beyond that which is seen. He tries to capture the essence of what he feels and sees in his mind's eye in his poetry.

"A major concern in "Ode to a Nightingale" is Keats's perception of the conflicted nature of human life, i.e., the interconnection or mixture of pain/joy, intensity of feeling/numbness or lack of feeling, life/death, mortal/immortal, the actual/the ideal, and separation/connection."

Keats also celebrates life's simplicity in listening to the song of the nightingale.  This poem is one of five "Odes" that Keats writes to express his sense of being one with both nature and a higher level of existence.  Keats, like many creative geniuses, experiences a sense of struggle between his earthly life and the spirit realm which seems to call to him, and which he must venture to visit to gain insight into his artistic nature.

Keats poetry is inspired by his ability to slip between the veil that separates the mortal world from the immortal world of eternity.  His poetry examines and reflects upon the mortal coil, but often, Keats recognizes that the immortal world holds much greater beauty and wonder.  He longs, as a mortal, bound to an earthly existence, to embrace the wonder and joy of the spiritual realm.

"Wanting to escape from the pain of a joy-pain reality, the poet begins to move into a world of imagination or fantasy."

 

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John Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale" presents the general idea of the conflicted nature of life:  pain/joy, pleasure/numbness, life/death, mortal/immortal, real/ideal.

The nightingale acts almost as a muse for the poet's reflections as he moves from his initial response to the song of the nightingale to the poet's distancing of himself from the bird in the final stanza.

For instance, in Stanza I the poet, whose

heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains/My sense, as though of hemlock

is touched by the bird's song, causing him to wish that he could reach a state of numb astraction with the bird and

,,,leave the world unseen, And with thee fade away into the forest dim

by becoming numb through drinking "a beaker full of the warm South."

As a transition into the next stanza, Keats repeats the word fade; however, fade moves into dissolve as Keats contemplates death, not just a numbness to pain as he moves to Stanza IV in which he tells the "darkling" that he has been

half in love with easeful Death," and "Now more than ever it seems rich to die,/To cease upon the midnight with no pain,/while thou art pouring forth thy sould aborad/In such an ectasy!

Here Keats separates himself from the nightingale as he realizes that the "immortal Bird" is not meant for death:  There is a continuum for it as the "self-same song" has been heard by Ruth and others of the ages.  He bids "Adieu!" to the bird as is "tolled" by the song back to his "sole self" and reminded of his mortality. With all these conflicting musings,  Keats wonders in the last line of the ode if his thoughts are merely illusionary, "a waking dream."

 

 

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An ode by definition is a poem of celebration or praise that honors people or events or addresses nature. In Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale," he contemplates the essence of the nightingale and contrasts it with his own worldly state and the nature of mortal life. He expresses a strong theme of Romanticism in the ode; nature, through the nightingale, is a world of beauty, peace, and freedom.

The bird lives in harmony with nature, its forest melody one of happiness. It "[s]ingest of summer in full-throated ease." The nightingale, "among the leaves," has never experienced the miseries of human life:

The weariness, the fever, and the fret

Here, where men sit and hear heach other groan;

Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,

Where youth grows pale, and specter-thin, and dies;

Where but to think is to be full of sorrow

And leaden-eyed despairs.

He further glorifies the nightingale by observing that "[t]hou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!"

Within the ode, Keats moves from his contemplation of the bird to a contemplation of his own feelings. Losing himself in the nightingale gives him temporary relief from the sadness of his own existence. The natural world of the nightingale is superior to his own. Returning to himself as the music of the nightingale fades, he questions if his musings were real:

Fled is that music:--Do I wake or sleep?

 

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