Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 176

In her book John Keats , Aileen Ward discusses the conflicts Keats weighs in "Bright Star! Would I Were Steadfast as Thou Art." She believes that the poem represents a way for Keats to come to terms with contrasting elements that he addressed in other works. In the poetic odes...

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In her book John Keats, Aileen Ward discusses the conflicts Keats weighs in "Bright Star! Would I Were Steadfast as Thou Art." She believes that the poem represents a way for Keats to come to terms with contrasting elements that he addressed in other works. In the poetic odes that he wrote, including "Ode to a Nightingale" and "Ode on a Grecian Urn," Keats considered the difference, as Ward puts it, between "the timeless but unreal perfection of art and the time-bound realizations of life." In other words, Keats was enthralled by the beauty and permanence of art and nature, but he knew that the human experience was different, limited by time and self-awareness. To resolve this dilemma, "Bright Star!" considers, in Ward's words, an "ideal moment made actual." This moment is "a vision of death at the moment of supreme happiness" for the speaker. In other words, the way that the speaker is able to understand timelessness and perfection is to imagine dying when he is with his love, enjoying a perfect moment of calm.

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Essays and Criticism