Friday, August 2, 2019
Use of Birds in Keats Ode to a Nightingale and Shelleys To a Sky-Lark
Use of Birds in Keats' Ode to a Nightingale and Shelley's To a Sky-Lark Of particular interest is the use of birds by two romantic poets. John Keats once listened to a bird song and gifted us with his Ode to a Nightingale. The sky-lark inspires Percy Shelley and through his vision of the bird we are privy to its beauty. Birds have always held a significance in human lives. While some animals were companions, others for labor or a source a food, our flying companions held an other-worldly place. They achieved heights unattainable to humans -- and sung while they did that. These two poets use a bird as their muse and also symbolically for the human experience. Keats' ode begins with his feeling drowsy, lethargic and sad, as if he were under the influence of a drug. In the background of his mind he hears the nightingale "In some melodious plot" (1.8) singing joyfully. The first stanza seems to be the beginning of an awakening. The poet is lost in his own world, in a drugged state, where the only sound allowed to enter is the bird's song. Alone in a saddened state a person can feel isolated and withdraw from others. In the first part of this stanza Keats conveys this solitary depression, where the mind is so overwhelmed with preoccupation that the outside world cannot intrude. This is similar to someone being told devastating news and that person walks about in a daze, even to the point of walking into traffic without realizing it. The second part reveals a touch of redemption. Something from outside the mind is allowed to enter the consciousness. A healing of the mind can happen and the song of a bird is the catalyst. This melancholy is carried over into the second stanza and the poet speaks of wanting to "leave the worl... ...eats lacks resolution; his poem is slightly disturbing. While the reader can discern seeds of happiness in Keats' poem, it never fully develops. Both poets though convey a sense of being one with the bird. In effect the birds become anthropomorphic. It is interesting to see how these poets use their imagination to seemlessly blend human life with the respective birds. Works Cited Heyen, William. "In Consideration of Percy Shelley." Southern Humanities Review Spring. 1983: 131-42. Jarrell, Randall. "The Profession of Poetry." Partisan Review Fall. 1950: 724-31. Knight, G. Wilson. Percy Shelley and the Poetry of Vision. New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 1960. Maurer, Robert E. "Notes on John Keats." John Keats: A Collection of Critical Essays. 1972: 79-99. Williams, Meg Harris. Inspiration in Milton and Keats. Totowa: Barnes and Noble Books, 1982.