What is the significance of Stanza VI within the larger work of "Ode to a Nightingale" by John Keats?: "Darkling, I listen; and, for many a timeI have been half in love with easeful Death...sod."

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his writing, the Romantic poet John Keats finds himself in a tangle of what one critic terms "inseparable but irreconcilable opposites." For, in his beautiful poetry, he finds delight in thoughts of death, and yet he revels in the sheer existence of things.

"Ode to a Nightingale" exemplifies Keats's contradictions of such experiences. In Stanza VI the poet is seduced by "easeful Death" which can end his troubles as it "take[s] into the air my quiet breath." The meaning of line 54 is somewhat nebulous as it may mean that the poet seeks death to take air from him, or possibly that the air carries along with his verses some of his breath. At any rate, both interpretations involve the entanglement of the poet and Nature. 

Then, in lines 55-58, Keats continues his contemplation of death, finding it "rich to die" while so immersed with Nature in his delight of the "ecstasy" of the nightingale's song. For, he and the songbird both are lost in joy: he with the beauty of the bird's song, and the nightingale with his delight in life. However, in the final lines, 59-60, Keats again separates himself from Nature as he realizes that the nightingale will continue singing even if he dies. Then his ears will be "in vain"--useless--as he merely becomes "a sod" while the lovely bird sings a "high requiem" for him.