Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Cricket” intentionally establishes its relation to other famous Romantic odes in order to differentiate itself from their thematic resolutions. For a full understanding of “The Cricket,” familiarity with another ode, such as Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale,” is very helpful.

The first clue that places “The Cricket” in a specific tradition is the invocation to the muse in the opening section. Calls for inspiration are standard in certain kind of poems, such as epics and elegies, although they do not always appear in odes. The poet, however, has included this invocation to link “The Cricket” with other Romantic odes in a gently ironic way: The animal chosen as muse seems deliberately odd since crickets are usually not symbolically connected with elevated poetry. Unlike Keats’s nightingale, the cricket does not soar and sing, but rather crawls through the undergrowth and murmurs.

Curiously, following the ironic invocation, the poem settles down to the materials and practices so prevalent in other Romantic odes. It is almost as if, after encouraging his readers to believe that “The Cricket” would not be typical, Tuckerman changes his plans and his audience’s expectations by writing a poem very much like others of its kind. The description of the setting, the introduction of the theme, and the placement of that theme in its historical context are all common.

In the fifth section, however, Tuckerman...

(The entire section is 422 words.)