Ode to a Nightingale John Keats

Ode to a Nightingale By John Keats | Ode to Nightingale Summary

Ode to a Nightingale John Keats
Ode to a Nightingale – John Keats


                        Wordsworth defined poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling” and John Keats’s “Ode to A Nightingale” proves itself to be an excellent example of Wordsworth’s definition of poetry. The poem was composed in the spring of 1819 and was published in July 1819 in an issue of the ‘Annuals of the fine Arts. According to him, this poem is written under a plum tree in Hampstead. His friend Charles brown told the real story of how Keats Composed the nightingale’s song.

about the author:

                        John Keats was one of the leading names of the second-generation romantic poet along with lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. But his works were published only for four years before his death from tuberculosis at a very young age (25). A few weeks after Keats’s death, Shelley wrote ‘Adonais’, an elegy on Keats. Of Keat’s six major odes of 1819, “Ode to psyche” was probably written the first, and “To Autumn” written last.

John Keats wrote sonnets, Odes, and epics. All his great poetry was written in a single year, 1819. Lamia, The Eve of St. Agnes, Ode on Indolence, Ode to Psyche, Ode to Melancholy, and the two unfinished versions of an epic on Hyperion. He says,

“Beaty is truth, truth is beauty”

            In other words, beauty is all we need to discover the truth, and the truth is itself beautiful.

Structure and form of the poem:

                        The poem’s rhyme scheme is ABABCDECDE primarily used in all modes of that time. The Ode contains eight separate stanzas, each of which is ten lines. The meter of each stanza is an iambic pentameter except for the 8th line of the Stanza, there are only six syllables per line rather than ten.

The theme of the poem:

                        The main themes of ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ are death, morality, immorality, nature, human suffering, and poetic imagination. According to him, death is the end of all people, which is unavoidable and is the poem’s central theme. If a man wants the best place to live. Man, always suffers on this earth, and the poet wants to be free from all miseries, just like the nightingale.

Explanation of the poem:

                        1st        In the very beginning of the Ode, the poet describes how he finds himself in a  state of oppression and painful lassitude after listening to the bird’s song as if had taken poison or drugs and was drowning into oblivion. He is oppressed by its beauty and joy. But he is not at all jealous of the bird’s cheerfulness, rather he is extremely delighted because of the bird’s cheerfulness, rather he is extremely delighted because of the bird’s joy.

So, his “Heartaches”. Human happiness is limited. The poem begins with extreme straightforwardness and lucidity. His “drowsy numbness” does not result from any wine or drug but rather it is the result of the extreme delight that he feels after listening to the bird’s song.

            2nd       No more he wants to say in the human world. He expresses his intense yearning to run away from the world of human suffering. He thinks of the romantic association of the origin country of the wine. He also visualizes a cup full of wine, which has its association with taste, touch, colour, smell, and sound. All these help him to disappear with the nightingale into the deep dark of the forest.

            3rd        The bird is not all worried about the sorrows and sufferings of the humans, it does not know anything about these and the poet depicts his earnest yearning to run away from this human world,

“where men sit and hear
 each other groan;
 where youth grows pale, and
 spectre thin and dies;
 where beauty cannot keep
 her lustrous eyes,”

                        Where is only sorrow and suffering, death and decay? So, this stanza is the reflection of the personal realization and experience of the poet personal. Actually, Keats witness his younger brother’s death at a very early age in 1818 and he was well acquainted with his own ill health. He feels that he can no more be part of all these burdens of line, he can no more tolerate the misery, premature death, and brevity of love and beauty. So, he wants the lap of nature to find solace.

            4th        The poet longs to go to the nightingale’s world “not Charioted by Bacchus, god of wine and his pards”, but “on the viewless wings of Poesy, goddess of poetry”. He gives up the idea of getting inspiration from wine, he needs invisible assistance from poetic imagination. He feels his existence with the nightingale with the natural world in the presence of the moon and stars. Actually, after listening to the bird’s song the poet, with the help of his romantic imagination, tries to enter the nightingale’s world.

            5th        In his romantic imagination the poet is in the beauty of the forest by the side of the nightingale. He cannot see the various types of flowers because of the darkness, but he can feel the fragrance of those flowers. He can feel the beauty of nature which is in stark contrast with the human world.

            6th        He can easily accept “easeful death” in this beautiful and ecstatic world with the accompaniment of the nightingale’s song. It’s an extra achievement for him to die in the midst of “such an ecstasy!”. So, he invoked the “easeful death” but even after his death, the bird will continue to sing in such a joyful way Keats’s sentimental and reflective sensuousness achieves the highest from here.

            7th        Now the poet calls the bird an “immortal bird”. The bird is not born for death because of its immortal voice. He brings in the allusion to Ruth the principal character of the “Book of Ruth”. Ruth was Moabitess and she was the windowed daughter-in-law of Naomi. After the death of her husband, she moved to her mother-in-law and both of them traveled to Bethlehem where she wins the love of Boaz, a kinsman of her mother-in-law through her kindness. Finally, she marries. This stanza is highly romantic.

            8th        The poet is suddenly reminded of his mortal world by the word “forlorn”, which is bringing him back to his ‘Saut self’, his miseries his sorrows, and sufferings his desolate condition. Suddenly he comes back to reality. He cannot escape as easily as he has pretended. The song of the nightingale fades away in the distance, and the poet returns half dazed, to real life. At the end, the world of imagination is replaced by a painful real world which is always in stark contrast to the world of imagination. The poem ends with an acceptance that pleasure cannot last and, that death is an inevitable part of life.


            “Ode to Nightingale” in a nutshell, is the expression of feelings. It is a highly impressive poem by “John Keats”. The poem is evident that he is truly romantic and a pure poet. It reveals his strong imaginative powers. He has successfully managed to make comparisons and demonstrate nature and its objects. He has proved that song of the nightingale is immortal. It has also been proved that imagination is pleasurable and life is painful. Sidney Colvin said about this poem,

“It (Ode to Nightingale)
 is among the varied
 glories of English Poetry.”

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