Critical Note: Ode to a Nightingale

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Ode to a nightingale critical note The speaker responds to the beauty of the nightingale’s song with a both “happiness” and “ache.” Though he seeks to fully identify with the bird — to “fade away into the forest dim” — he knows that his own human consciousness separates him from nature and precludes the kind of deathless happiness the nightingale enjoys. First the intoxication of wine and later the “viewless wings of Poesy” seem reliable ways of escaping the confines of the “dull brain,” but finally it is death itself that seems the only possible means of overcoming the fear of time. The nightingale is “immortal” because it “wast not born for death” and cannot conceive of its own passing. Yet without consciousness, humans cannot…show more content…
It is the disease of time which the song of the nightingale particularly transcends, and the poet, yearning for the immortality of art, seeks another way to become one with the bird. Even death is terribly final; the artists die but what remains is the eternal music; the very song heard today was heard thousands of years ago. The poet exclaims: “Forlorn! the very word is like a bell To toll me back from thee to my sole self!” The reverie into which the poet falls carries him deep into where the bird is singing. But the meditative trance cannot last. With the very first word of the eighth stanza, the reverie is broken. The word “forlorn” occurs to the poet as the adjective describing the remote and magical world suggested by the nightingale’s song. But the poet suddenly realises that this word applies with greater precision to himself. The effect is that of an abrupt stumbling. With the new and chilling meaning of “forlorn”, the song of the nightingale itself alters: it becomes a “plaintive anthem”. The song becomes fainter. What had before the power to make the sorrow in man fade away from a harsh and bitter world, now itself “fades” and the poet is left alone in the silence. As the nightingale flies away, the intensity of the speaker 's experience has left him

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