Write an analysis on 'Ode to a Nightingale', focusing on how Keats presents some of the ideas he was struggling with at the time.

Essay by ihaveabigbuttHigh School, 12th gradeA, January 2005

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A major point in "Ode to a Nightingale" is Keats's perception of the conflicted nature of human life, i.e., the interconnection or mixture of pain/joy, life/death, mortal/immortal, the actual/the ideal, and the inextricable link between the real and the unreal. In the ode, Keats focuses on immediate sensations and emotions that the reader can draw a conclusion from or a notion. Throughout the ode he is trying to work through his ideas and feelings about pleasure and pain, and the link between the real and the unreal.

The opening of the poem is very heavy and negative; 'my heart aches', with 'numbness pains my sense' making the reader think that it must be a very heavy pain to be felt when a person is numb. He feels as if he might have "of hemlock drunk" or "emptied some dull opiate to the drains"; this resembles the qualities of the Lethe, the Underworld river that the dead drank from in order to forget all that they had done or said while living.

The feeling is in fact the result of a deep awareness of the happiness of the nightingale he hears singing; his resulting pleasure is so intense it has become painful. He feels joy and pain, a response of two minds - he is happy, but he is too happy, which is then what is causing him the pain. The ode reads as if Keats is jealous, but he is not, he is examining the ironic link between happiness and sorrow; can pleasure be so intense that it numbs us or causes us pain? At the beginning of the ode, the bird is presented to us as a real bird, but as the poem progresses, the bird becomes a symbol for the beauties of nature and the ideal...