Keat’s first stanza of Ode to a Nightingale required stopping and interpreting almost every word by definition and in context. I needed to read this over many times to understand the the mood set here, which also sets the mood for the rest of the poem. Also, there was a rhyme scheme to the poem which immediately created certain connections and relationships within each stanza.

The rhyme scheme of an ABAB quatrain and a CDECDE sestet suggested a shift in lines 4 and 5, which became very clear.

Keats seemed to have picked his words very deliberately as the first lines were very difficult to understand, particularly the paradox of numbness causing pain on his senses. The quatrain expands on his blurred and drunken state. From the quatrain alone, I had reached the conclusion that the mood was gloomy and disheartened.

However, the sestet changed my conclusion.

“Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness”

My interpretation of this led me to believe he envied the nightingale in being too happy. In this I heard echoes of Wordsworth in Tintern Abbey, where he spoke of being young and living in the moment, bounding over the hills, just as Keats’ nightingale is a female  tree spirit, which is associated with gentleness, and delicacy. There was a definite contrast of him as refined, closed and dull and the nightingale as wild, in the open and (by association) sharp.

Further, there is an association of natural colour, or lack thereof, in the nightingale and Keats.

“Of beechen green, and shadows numberless”.

The entire poem pulls particularly on Keat’s association with bleakness: gray, pale, dark with his own life. I felt the mood was an ebb of gloom and a flow of wonder. All of these elements were imbedded in my mind before I read the following stanza. The final two lines echo the first quatrain of the poem and tokenize the gloom and wonder binary mood.


Works Cited:

Keats, John. Ode to a NightingaleNorton Anthology of  English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9thed. Vol. D. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., Inc., 2012. 927-929. Print.

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5 Responses to Moody.

  1. teresastapor says:

    Great post! You had pulled in a lot of the aspects of the poem that made me stop and think. This poem to me was extremely dark with a questioning of life tone. Nothing like Wordsworth’s poems, which I must admit I prefer. Something about the raw emotion and not sugar coating reality is what makes “Ode to a Nightingale” different. I got to say, it is nice to see someone writing about what the feel then about pastoral scenery.
    Lines like “where youth grows pale, spectre-thin and dies”, draws in the image he is struggling with why life is the way it is (26 pg 928). Why the youth die early and the old live on. I get a feeling he is struggling with life and dead and he doesn’t see things through rose-colored glasses. I wonder if his childhood has anything to do with his view of the world? Do you thing this poem would be different if his childhood was better?

  2. rshabalin says:

    Your post reminded me of a line by Thom Donovan (a modern poet):
    “If we are living we can not know, if we are dead we can not know”
    I thought your post was interesting, and stirs some great questions. Keats’s sensory connections to the world are numb because the questions he asks are unanswerable. He longs to “[f]ade far away,” and “forget” his condition–to be a leaf that “hast never known” the pangs of self-awareness, and has no sensory experience. In your post, you mention the line: “being too happy in thine happiness.” Do you think happiness links to self-awareness of one’s condition? How is sensory experience different in a “vision, or a waking dream”–how do we (as poets) solidify our experience in the natural world…is it only done with reference to time?

  3. OliviaH says:

    Good job on your post! It is interesting how the mood of Keats is contrasted against the mood of the nightingale. Keat’s mood is where he believes that “to think is to be full of sorrow” (27), whereas the nightingale is actually being “too happy”(6). A question popped into my head: what does he mean by the nightingale being too happy? In the poem, he does imply he is envious of the nightingale’s happiness and its spirit, but is he also implying that the nightingale shouldn’t be so happy? I may be completely wrong, but since the contrast between Keats and the nightingale is so clear, I feel like Keat’s envy of the nightingale came from him being disheartened and so there is some resentment towards the bird’s happiness along with the awe.

  4. thetheresak says:

    Great job! I really enjoyed reading your post.

    I was mostly intrigued by your comment on colour as it was something that I was submissive to. After reading your post and opening the Norton Anthology again, I did notice the words chosen in association with colour. And I agree that there is “an association of natural colour, or lack thereof”, as Keats does seem to use “bleakness” in colour through Ode to a Nightingale. I think that this is especially apparent in the comparison of his life  to the songbird’s.

    Although, his diction in moments related to nature are somewhat colourful. The use of words like “green”, “purple”, and “blushful”  (especially in stanza two) counter the bleak use of words used throughout the rest of the poem, like “gray”, “dull”, and “pale” (928).

    Looking at Keats’s diction and thinking back to what we discussed in class about imagery, it lead me to question whether Keats was using this colour contrast as effective imagery, or as a strategic difference between his life versus the natural life of the nightingale, or both.

    I still agree that it is filled with the writer’s gloom. Though, the added moments of colour do seem to give Ode to a Nightingale even more depth.

    Again, good job.

  5. amsovak says:

    Really great post. I must disagree with some of the comments above and say that I much prefer Keats to Wordsworth. Keats’ writing, especially Ode to a Nightingale, is so deep. I have always preferred the depressive side of things, and it seems Keats feels the same way. I really enjoyed reading your comments on his use of color. We discussed Keats’ use of sensory language in class with Dr. Ullyot but color was not something we focused on. There is definitely, like thetheresak said above, a contrast between his bleak use of words and vivid color imagery.

    Good job!

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