John Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn and Ode to a Nightingale
John Keats, in "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and "Ode to a Nightingale"
attempts to connect with two objects of immortality to escape from the
rigors of human life. In "Ode to a Nightingale", Keats attempts to
connect with a bird's song because the music knows nothing of aging
and mortality. Keats has the same motivation in "Ode on a Grecian Urn"
while trying to connect with three separate images on a mysterious
urn. Connecting in this sense means to either fully understand the
object or become the object itself. For example, when Keats attempts
to "connect" with an image on the urn, he attempts to fully understand
the origin of the image. While his attempts to connect with the two
objects fall short, he nevertheless makes an interesting conclusion
about the ideals of beauty and truth.
Keats begins the "Ode to a Nightingale" in pain, before hearing the
melody of the nightingale. After hearing this music, he wishes to join
the bird and leave the human world. He first attempts to connect with
the bird using a "draught of vintage" (11), but upon further thinking,
decides that he will "not (be) charioted by Bacchus and his pards"
(32). (Bacchus is god of wine and revelry.) Keats finally joins the
bird on the "viewless wings of Poesy." Though able to imagine his
flight with the nightingale, the narrator is can't actually see
anything. Keats can imagine the "fast fading violets cover'd up in
leaves" (47), but "cannot see what flowers are at my feet" (41). He
can also picture the moon in his mind, but says "there is not light"
(38). The song of the nightingale has Keats in such ecstasy because he
believes he will never feel any more pain of human life. He becomes so
enthralled with the nightingale that he falls "half in love with
easeful death." The narrator's journey comes to an end when his
thoughts cause him to utter the word, "Forlorn!"
Keats celebrates the bird's song as one that will live for eternity.
The narrator believes that the bird's music has dated back to "ancient
days" (64), when emperors and peasants filled Earth. It is even
possible, Keats says, that the biblical Ruth heard the same
nightingale's song as Keats did at that moment, as Ruth gathered corn
in the fields. Furthermore, Keats said that the bird would continue to
sing long after Keats' had "ears in vain" (59). By putting the bird's
music in the past, the present and the future, Keats universalized
this song throughout time, making the bird immortal. Therefore, the
song will live far beyond the "last gray hairs" (25) of man. It also
seems fitting that a poem that focuses around the celebration of music
takes away sight in favor of other senses. Keats was captivated by the
music from the bird, not the physical flight of it. When he mentions
flowers and the...