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