Using ‘Ode On Melancholy’ And One Other, Examine How Keats Uses Language

1074 words - 4 pages

Using ‘Ode on Melancholy’ and one other, examine how Keats uses language
to explore his muses


In ‘Ode on Melancholy’ Keats accepts the truth he sees: joy and pain
are inseparable and to experience joy fully we must experience sadness
or melancholy fully. The first stanza urges us not to try and escape
pain; stanza two tells us what to do instead - embrace the transient
beauty and joy of the nature and human experience, which contain pain
and death. Stanza three makes clear that in order to experience joy we
must experience the sorrow that beauty dies and joy evaporates. The
more intensely we feel happiness, the more subject we are to

The poet's passionate outcry not to reject melancholy is presented
negatively – “no,” “not,” “neither,” “nor.” The degree of pain that
melancholy may cause is implied by the ways to avoid it, for example
“go to Lethe” and “suffer thy pale forehead to be kissed by
nightshade…” The first two words, “No, no,” are both accented,
emphasising them; their forcefulness expresses convincingly the
speaker’s passionate state. In the first stanza, the language used
presents “the wakeful anguish of the soul”. Keats speaks of
“yew-berries” which are generally associated with mourning; the mood
of the stanza is joyless which mirrors the subject it speaks of.
However, Keats describes the “anguish” as “wakeful” because the
sufferer still feels and so still has the capacity to feel happiness.

The language used in ‘Ode on Melancholy’ is highly appropriate – the
clouds are “weeping”. Much of the effectiveness of this poem derives
from the concrete imagery. Throughout the poem, Keats yokes elements,
which are ordinarily regarded as incompatible or as opposites. These
weeping clouds (a negative image) “foster” flowers. This idea calls up
positive images, yet the flowers are “droop-headed” which has a double
application. The flowers could have literally wilted due to the rain,
or Keats could be referring to an action that connotes grief.
Similarly, the rain temporarily hides the hill yet the hill is still
“green” which represents fertility, lushness and beauty, and it
retains these qualities whether we can see them at that particular
moment or not. The rain, which cuts visibility, is called a “shroud,”
a death reference, but the month is April, a time when nature renews
itself and comes alive after winter's barrenness and harshness. These
contrasting images represent Keats’ muse – melancholy. The language
used denotes both joy and sadness and this reinforces the idea that an
occasional melancholic state is necessary for the effects of happiness
to be recognised and appreciated. Keats advises us to “glut” sorrow,
meaning to gorge or to experience to the fullest.

Similarly, in ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ a major concern is Keats’
perception of the conflicted nature of human life. The poet falls into
a reverie whilst listening to the nightingale sing whereby he feels

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