What is Keats Escape

Keats' Ode to a Nightingale


1 Introduction

2. Detailed analysis
2.1. First verse
2.2. Second stanza
2.3 Third verse
2.4. Fourth and fifth stanzas
2.5. Sixth stanza
2.6. Seventh verse
2.7. Eighth stanza

3. Conclusion

4. Bibliography

1 Introduction

When studying the Ode to a Nightingale It became clearer and clearer that a completely systematic method of processing such a complex poem construction can only prove to be a hindrance, in order to be able to point out larger contexts using the concrete example of individual lines or, in the clarification of larger contexts, also to specific details already discussed To be able to use verses to illustrate, I have refrained from an overly tight structure. Nevertheless, it seemed sensible to me not to forego a rough structure according to stanzas, since the ode is not only composed of large contexts and themes, but develops analogously, each stanza builds on the previous one. Some facts only become apparent at a later point in time and only then are taken up. Certain connections have been summarized so as not to go beyond the scope of this housework. So you will look in vain for a separate chapter for the fifth stanza. The detailed linguistic analysis is also not carried out consistently, but is limited to details that support the main idea of ​​this work or appear to be related to it.

In the present term paper, I will deal exclusively with the analysis of the poem, without going into any further biographical context or making comparisons with other odes or works by Keats or contemporary poets. Although such a procedure is obvious, I should have restricted myself to the main analysis within the framework of this seminar paper in such a way that the result could only have been superficial and unsatisfactory. Certainly the ode still offers a wide field for considerations on a larger scale.

2. Detailed analysis

The Ode to a Nightingale consists of eight stanzas with ten lines each, which are kept very strictly in the rhyme scheme ABABCDECDE. The strict rhyme scheme and the five-part iambus are indeed reminiscent of a sonnet. In fact, experts agree that the odes of spring are heavily influenced by Shakespeare.[1] The very strict form stands in drastic contrast to the strong emotional fluctuations to which the poem is subject in terms of content. Through the continuous use of the present tense, the reader participates very directly in the feelings experienced.

2.1. First verse

The content of the first stanza is already divided into two parts. The first four lines deal with a very vivid pain experience of the poet, which appears very gloomy in mood and poetic coloring; the last four lines, on the other hand, which deal with the nightingale, describe a very bright, even colorful ("beechen green") summer mood. The central lines of this stanza (5-6) not only connect the two parts but also the two main actors and thus their opposing situations. Because while the nightingale is "at ease", the poet is in pain as long as he feels inside the nightingale.

This experience of happiness in the face of the nightingale's song is excruciatingly painful, which in itself is a paradox. This particular psychological circumstance becomes clearer when looking at the individual words. The terms that were chosen to clarify the pain are not only from the area of ​​pain ("aches", "pain") and death ("hemlock", "Lethe-wards") but also overlap with terms from the drug area ("hemlock", "dull opiate to the drains"). The oxymoron "a drowsy numbness pains / My sense" also seems to be assigned to the field of drugs, because a uniform combination of happiness, pain and numbness or numbness is probably particularly evident in the area of ​​experience with opium. Taking into account that it was by no means uncommon among romantic poets to try mind-expanding drugs and to incorporate the experience into the work, the assessment is that the poet has this experience of happiness, which seems to be too overwhelming in one To be able to withstand the human body - similar to after taking too strong mind-expanding drugs - tries to relativize. The gradient that is built up in this stanza between the pair of opposites "aches" / "ease" of the first and tenth lines creates a literary tension that is on a par with the emotional one and which also demands resolution.

2.2. Second stanza

Well-known methods of "relaxation" or the dissolution of this tension that are typical for the poet are wine and poetry; death is the final and final, perfected escape. These escape methods represent an increase from the second (wine) through the fourth (poetry) to the sixth stanza (death), which also forms the climax of the poem. Although it is pretended that the poet wants to go to the nightingale, he wants to flee from her and her unbearable happiness. Other critics, e.g. Earl R. Wassermann, want this increase to be understood in a spiritual sense. Accordingly, it is assumed that the poet thinks that true spirituality is hindered by corporeality, which has to be overcome. Wassermann's approach to interpretation is entirely coherent: after all, the enjoyment of wine has already resulted in a fogging of the senses, which the lyrical ego mistakenly misrecognizes as a detachment from the senses. The poet finally realizes this error and turns to poetry. Wine becomes a purely physical and sensual experience and poetry a spiritual one, but only in death can the material detachment from the body be achieved, which true spirituality demands. Thus Aquarius also assumes a longing for death to the lyrical ego.

Jennifer Farrell criticizes this attitude fiercely, taking into account the fact that in all of Keats' work his sensual point of view is particularly striking and that the nightingale is also depicted in this way. Ultimately, the entire interpretation of the poem depends on how to view the nightingale. Is it a symbolic embodiment of spiritual content, an immortal idea, something that the poet clearly recognizes as being above himself and where he is trying to get? If the couples "nightingale - poet", "immortal - mortal", "heaven - earth", "bliss - pain" are mutually exclusive, as in Wasserman's approach to interpretation, then the whole poem would make nothing more clear than the impossibility of this Try to unite the two worlds, so be happy.[2] Although Keats mourned his brother at the time the poem was written, his newly awakened love for Fanny Brawne outweighs it at this point, which he strives for, which suggests an emotional state full of hope rather than one that contains pessimistic futility .

In contrast to Wasserman, Farrel sees the nightingale as the embodiment of the sensual. I would also contradict this exclusive view. Ultimately, it is precisely because of the ambiguity of the nightingale that Keats captivates his readers. Since it is a variable in which every poetry lover can insert his own values ​​such as "spirituality", "sensuality", "art, poetry", etc., this poem always has a very individual meaning for each individual; which was right now for Keats is and remains, in the end, only a guess.

In the second stanza, the lyrical subject first imagines that he has drunk wine, which may have been helpful more often in a similar situation. Under the influence of drunk bliss, the presentation of the wine is extremely sensual. Five senses are addressed in just four lines: of course, besides the auditory ("Provencal song", "Dance", "mirth") and the visual ("Flora and the country green") sense of taste ("Tasting") is also mentioned. But even the tactile ("deep-delved") and the thermal sense ("Cool'd", "sunburnt") are taken into account. The thermal opposites such as "Cool'd" - "sunburnt" illustrate Keats' sensitivity in the use of contrasting design elements.[3] These four lines not only appeal to the senses, but also conjure up a vision of a community celebrating the harvest, singing and dancing. Although the poem was written in the spring[4] and also settled[5] is, this scene is obviously a vision of summer, nature in perfection.[6] The parallelism of the first and fifth lines "O, for a draft of vintage!" / "O for a beaker full of the warm South" expresses the longing for wine from which salvation is hoped. In the next four lines, the waving and thus personified wine has a particularly vivid effect ("winking at the brim"). And finally, the purple-stained mouth implies that the wine was drunk, the act of drinking taking place only in the imagination of the lyrical self. Particular attention should also be paid to the uniformity of the themes of the first and second stanzas and their gradient in intensity:


[1] e.g. William Walsh: "Keats, John." In Reference Guide to English Literature, Volume 2, ed. v. D.C. Kirkpatrick (Chicago and London: St. James Press, 1991). P.805.

[2] Cf. on this: "If there are really two worlds in the poem - that of the lyrical subject and that of the nightingale - which cannot come together, then all the poem can do is to illustrate the attempt ot enter the nightingale's world and its ultimate failure. " Jennifer Farrell, "Keats - The Progress of the Odes. Unity and Utopia." In Bremen contributions to the history of literature and ideology 6, ed. v. Thomas Metscher and Dieter Herms (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Peter Lang, 1989).

[3] Likewise the perhaps more inconspicuous contrast of "earth" - "sunburnt".

[4] S .: Christiane Wyrwa: John Keats (1795-1821). Approach to life and work. In the series: punctum, volume 6 (scaneg, Munich: 1995) p.63ff.

[5] Compare: 5th verse: "White hawthorn", "pastoral eglantine", "Fast fading violets", "mid-May's eldest child, The coming musk-rose".

[6] Compare also the idea of ​​nature in perfection with the Ode to Pan.

End of the reading sample from 17 pages