Ode to a Nightingale

Ode to a Nightingale :

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains

My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains

One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:

’Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,

But being too happy in thine happiness,

That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,

In some melodious plot

Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,

Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been

Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,

Tasting of Flora and the country green,

Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!

O, for a beaker full of the warm South,

Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,

With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,

And purple-stained mouth;

That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,

And with thee fade away into the forest dim.

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget

What thou among the leaves hast never known

The weariness, the fever, and the fret

Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;

Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,

Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;

Where but to think is to be full of sorrow

And leaden-eyed despairs,

Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,

Or new Love pine at them beyond tomorrow.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!

No hungry generations tread thee down;

The voice I hear this passing night was heard

In ancient days by emperor and clown:

Perhaps the self-same song that found a path

Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,

She stood in tears amid the alien corn;

The same that oft-times hath

Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam

Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell

To toll me back from thee to my sole self!

Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well

As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.

Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades

Past the near meadows, over the still stream,

Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep

In the next valley-glades:

Was it a vision, or a waking dream?

Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

John Keats (1795–1821) was one of the greatest of the younger generation of English Romantic poets. He started his career as an apprentice to a surgeon but soon gave it up for poetry. His poetic career lasted for only four years but, during this short span, he evolved from an ordinary poet to an exceptionally mature poetic force. His poetry celebrates beauty, which he considered the ultimate truth. It is portrayed in extremely sensuous images that have been created through beautiful verbal pictures. The image of the nightingale’s bower in the poem is an apt illustration of the poet’s craft in this respect.

Ruth : a woman in the Bible who left her own people to live with her mother-inlaw, Naomi. After the death of her husband, marries Boaz and is the ancestor of King David.

Provencal : ( p r o n o u n c e d Provensaal) of the district of Provence in France, known for its bards and its grapevines.

Hippocrene : a fountain in Mount Helicon associated with poetry - in the poem it refers to the wine that inspires poetic ability.

Lethe : in ancient Greek mythology, an imaginary river whose water, when drunk, was thought to make the dead forget their life on Earth.

Dryad : in stories, a female spirit that lives in a tree.

The word POETRY originates from a Greek word meaning TO MAKE. A poet is thus a maker and the poem something that is made or created. No single definition of poetry is possible but some characteristic features of poetry may be mentioned. Poetry has a musical quality with rhythm, pitch, metre and it may use figures of speech such as simile and metaphor. While quite a few poems in this selection are in traditional forms, the unit also includes modern poems that are free from formal restrictions.

Ode to a Nightingale :

Ode to a Nightingale To HOME PAGE