Sleep and Poetry

The first stanza begins with a deep agony of the speaker, meditating on the simple existence that his body has. He wants to escape the worries and concerns of life, age, and time and also to be free like the nightingale that he hears,singing deep in the dark forest where hardly any moonlight can reach. He can’t see any of the flowers or plants around him, but he can smell them which leads him to think that wouldn’t be so sad to die at night in the forest and the only being wich sees that would be just a nightingale.

He thinks, it would be a rich experience to die, “to cease upon the midnight with no pain” while the bird would continue to sing even if he would not longer exist. The narrator confesses, he has been “half in love with easeful Death”comparing the nightingale with the perfect form for expressing the human soul.He also thinks how the song of the nightingale was heard and understood in ancient times by emperor and peasant,two different types of social classes,and which of them values most the song.

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The speaker vision is interrupted in the moment that the bird flees away, leaving him alone at the border between reality and fantasy.

In the second stanza the narrator is a dreamer, detached completely from the real world he wishes to understand all the pleasures that a human being can sense. He complains about his way of living, considering that his soul and mind are imprisoned in his own body, wondering how he could release them and more, when this would happen.

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He finds that the only answer to change his condition is death. He fears for the passage of time, for his condition in the future recognizing that he is no longer free and full of life like the bird, and he wants to come back to that freedom, usefulness and state of innovation. He wonders if perhaps death might release him from the tragedy of old age. The third and the fourth stanza are presenting the way of understanding the unique, undying musical voice of the nighthingale, which is the voice of nature, freedom and also of ideal romantic poetry, of the world of art and spirit.

The narrator is wondering if this free soul (the nightingale) has ever known any spiritual hardships, worries about death and enjoys the life. He tries to explain to himself the magical, spiritual, eternal, and the ideal voce of the nightingale, and also what purpose has in this world. The narrator’s vision is focused to the real world, accepting that the only possibility of joining the condition of the nightingale is thru his dreams, because the imagery is associated with darkness and night. The reason of the moon maintains the idea of desolation. The narrator finds the answer to his existence, thinking that he might also be”the nightingale” in his world, accepting the reality despite its ‘fever, fret and fury’. The next two stanzas offers us a somewhat unsettling revelation. The speaker doesn’t just want to transcend the limits of the physical world…he actually wants to die (‘Now more than ever seems it rich to die’). The reasons for this desire, however, are more complex than misery.

Rather, as he hinted in the first stanza, the speaker feels so content and complete when he hears the nightingale’s song that he wouldn’t mind dying. Furthermore, the speaker notes that the nightingale’s song would continue long after his deat. The last stanza builds upon the idea that the nightingale’s song is eternal, focusing on how long this song has been heard. Obviously, Keats doesn’t mean that the same bird has been alive for thousands of years. Rather, he is suggesting that the beauty of the natural world has fascinated humanity for generations upon generations. Ultimately, the speaker realizes the nightingale’s song is just as fleeting as everything else around him, and he is left to wonder whether he is dreaming or awake. In ”Ode to a Nightingale” we found the themes of transcendence, mortality and impermanence.

The narrator, addresses (or talks to) its subject directly(specific characteristic of ode). Over the course of its eight stanzas, the poem alternates between the physical world of the speaker and the ‘eternal’ world of the nightingale, using allusion (references to other pieces of literature or mythology) and imagery (language that affects the reader’s senses). Ultimately, the speaker realizes the nightingale’s song is just as fleeting,and all he did was just trying to understand this feeling, as everything else around him, and he is left to wonder whether he is dreaming or awake(a literary work with an ambiguous ending).


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Sleep and Poetry. (2016, Mar 23). Retrieved from

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