What is the use of imagery in the poem "On the grasshopper and the cricket" by John Keats?

Quick answer:

In this poem, the writer compares the grasshopper and the cricket, both of which are insects. The grasshopper was more musical than the cricket. The grasshopper is more musical than the cricket because he makes more music. He wakes up before everyone and sings even if it's winter time. The grasshopper remains active in all seasons except winter; but in winter, he still remains active like a sleeping man who is aware of his surroundings. In contrast, the cricket does not wake up early to sing. He has a short life span and only sings for a few months during summer or spring season; after that he dies until next summer or spring comes round again.

Expert Answers

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Keats' thesis is that "the poetry of the earth is never dead," and most people read the poem as a celebration of the enduring beauty of nature. However, upon closer inspection, it is clear that the poem is concerned specifically with sound. It is the grasshopper's voice that "takes the lead" in celebrating summer after the birds have fallen silent; similarly, it is the cricket's song that "in warmth increasing ever" enlivens the otherwise silent winter night. Of course, there is a direct connection between the songs of these insects and Keats' own "song," his poetry, which he hopes will persist in the same way.

Your essay could state this theme in the introduction, then consider, in separate paragraphs:

  • the imagery of silence (the hot fields, the frosty night)
  • the voices of the insects, and singing as an expression of joy
  • the idea of persistence, and images that suggest the permanence of nature

I would end by considering carefully the final two lines of the poem: How does the drowsiness of the poet, who mistakes the song of the cricket for that of the grasshopper, relate to the idea of the "never dead" poetry of the earth? How does this final image suggest, perhaps, a poetic process?

Good luck!

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I suggest choosing a theme from the poem and writing an essay explaining how imagery supports this theme.  I would suggest three uses of imagery.  Here is an example theses:  In “On the Grasshopper and the Cricket” Keats expresses the idea of nature’s unending beauty through imagery of warmth, renewal and joy.  I would outline the essay this way:

  1.  Introduction (use the thesis I gave you)
  2. Warmth Imagery: “the birds are faint with the hot sun” (2), “That is the Grasshopper's--he takes the lead/In summer luxury” (5-6), “from the stove there shrills/The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever” (12-13)
  3. Renewal Imagery: “The poetry of earth is never dead” (1), “And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run/From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead” (3-4)
  4. Joy Imagery: “he has never done/With his delights; for when tired out with fun/He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed” (6-8)

  5. Conclusion (restate thesis)

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