Ode to a Nightingale

1 January 2017

In the poem “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats, the poem’s preoccupations and qualities evoke a Romantic sentimental recollection for the past and refer to it several times. Framed through dynamic poetic techniques and powerful visual imagery, Keats conveys universal concerns and values of immortality of art and the mortality of humans through the compilation of the themes of mortality, nature and transience. “Disabled” by the modernist poet, Wilfred Owen projects numerous sensual metaphors to evoke emotional responses of traumatic war experiences. Disabled” has transcended barriers of time to pursue concerns and values through the compilation of themes and emotions of unseen scars, human mortality, and religion.

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The preoccupations and qualities of these poems that represent the two poetic movements are the themes, the use of tone, the mood and atmosphere, the concerns and values and the structure. In “Ode to a Nightingale” when the persona hears the bird’s song, it causes him to ruminate on the concerns and values of the immortality of art and the mortality of humans, which represents the Romantic Movement.

The main themes explored in the poem “Ode to a Nightingale” are mortality, nature and transience, which were the common themes explored in Romantic poems. Through the deep analysis of the poem “Ode to a Nightingale”, it is evident that the persona harnesses the power of his imagination, and utilises it to escape the confines of his prison like reality. The persona imagines the loss of the physical world and sees himself dead, sitting in his garden. The bird’s song serves as an intense reminder of the world of imagination, a world of permanence as opposed to the human world of transience, of suffering and decay and death.

The poem emphasizes largely on the message that pleasure cannot last and that death is an inevitable part of life. It also reinforces the fact that nature is superior to humans in many ways. On closer examination of the poem “Ode to a Nightingale” it is evident that the nightingale described experiences a type of death but it does not actually die, as it lives through its song, which is a fate that humans cannot expect. “Ode to a Nightingale” is structured in 8 stanzas, and each stanza has the rhyme scheme ABABCDECDE, which was the common structure for Romantic poems.

The poem is metrically variable, with the first seven and the last two lines of each stanza written in iambic pentameter. The eighth line of each stanza is written in trimeter, with only three accented syllables instead of five. John Keats has discovered similes, symbols and metaphors in nature, for the spiritual and emotional states he seeks to describe in “Ode to a Nightingale. ” Music is used as a symbol in Keats poem. The poem utilises the bird’s music to contrast the mortality of humans with the immortality of art.

Caught up in the beautiful birdsong, the persona imagines himself capable of using poetry to join the bird in the forest. The beauty of the bird’s music represents the ecstatic, imaginative possibilities of poetry. As mortal beings who will eventually die, we can delay death through the timelessness of music, poetry, and other types of art. The usage of alliteration in this poem “fast fading” and “singest of summer” creates emphasis, which makes the words memorable. The use of alliteration with the consonants “f” and “s” has helped create a softer tone in the poem.

The nightingale is used as a symbol of beauty, immortality, and freedom from the world’s troubles. John Keats utilises the poetic technique apostrophe, as the persona talks directly to the nightingale, which obviously cannot hear or respond. “Disabled” powerfully conveys a didactic message about unseen scars and human mortality, which compels the reader to reflect upon the value of human life, which is a quality that represents the Modernist Movement. The poem highlights how the persona misses all of the wonderful memories that he experienced only last year, before he lied his way to go to war underage to show off.

This only resulted in him losing his limbs and getting burnt to become an old man who is only about 17 years of age, and has aged as though he is elderly. The persona has to live in a care home and spends his day watching children enjoying their life in the playground. Through deep examination of this poem, the didactic message that is portrayed in this poem is that you must cherish everything you have and to not take anything for granted. This is due to the fact that you never know when you can suddenly lose everything you have got when you do not expect it.

This poem also protests against war and shows the meaningless of it, and the wastage of life caused by it. The frequent switches between present and past in the structure of the poem, and the juxtaposition of remembrance and realisation casts a harsh light on everything the soldier has lost. Each stanza starts with describing the soldier’s present conditions and then compares it to his past life, or vice versa. The final stanza however depicts what he thinks his future holds for him, which he depicts as a life lived by rules set by other people, a life of utter dependency and helplessness.

In contrast to the Romantic world view, the Modernist cares rather little for Nature, Being, or the overarching structures of history. Instead of progress and growth, the Modernist poets see decay and a growing alienation of the individual, which are characteristics portrayed in “Disabled. ” “He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark” evokes the isolation of the wounded soldier due to the immediate appearance of “dark”, “grey”, and “shivered. ” It strikes a strong comparison to the warmth of the second stanza. Owen effectively utilises irony in “a bloodstream down his leg, /After the matches, carried shoulder high”.

We are already aware that the soldier has lost an arm and his legs, yet here we are told that before the War he felt proud to have an injury, and to be carried shoulder- high. “Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal” recalls the image of the football match portrayed earlier. Before, he was carried from the field “shoulder high”, as the result of the winning goal. Although here, despite having achieved far more, for a far greater loss than a “blood- smeared leg”, the crowd’s reception is quite hollow.

Wilfred Owen uses repetition throughout the poem to try and bring these messages of regret across, such as “Now he will never feel again” and “Now, he is old; his back will never brace”. This usage of repetition emphasizes on what he will never have again and how much he has lost to war. In conclusion, it is evident that John Keat’s and Wilfred Owen’s extensive usage of literary techniques and universal concerns and values, are preoccupations and qualities that represent the Romantic Movement and the Modernist Movement. The most painful moments in both of these poems, teach the reader the most valuable concerns and values.

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