Sequence of Inter Connection in John Keats Odes

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Element of unity in the themes of Keats’s Odes

      The four major odes of Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn’, ‘Ode to a Nightingale, ‘Ode to Autumn’ and ‘Ode On Melancholy’ yield a very interesting study if they are read one after the other. The total impression of these Odes constitutes a very solid and compact whole. There is an element of unity in the final impression that they leave upon the reader and this unity springs primarily from the oneness of theme in these Odes. The basic theme, underlying all these Odes can be summed up very briefly like this: The Odes deal with the fundamental human problems of finding a solace from the naked and merciless realities of life. The solace can be found in the objects and beauties of nature, in the world of art, in the world of imagination and in a wish for death, but with Keats, the solace is always temporary in character and a final come back into the world of realities is very important and essential.

The thematic value of “Ode to a Nightingale’’

      In Ode to a Nightingale, we find that Keats has been deeply grieved by the mental strains of humanity at large. These strains have resulted from the intricate complexities of human life. Some are suffering from palsy, the others are dying young. Everyone has one problem or the other so much so that “Men sit and hear each other groan”. In nutshell, man is suffering from so many problems that the world has become a place. “Where but to think is to be full of Sorrow”. In order to find relief from the heavy burden of human worries. Keats wants to fly far away into the world of the Nightingale who. “Among the leaves hast never known’’ as to how miserable is the life of man in the world of reality. The natural beauty of the world of Nightingale also subdues Keats’s mental train to a large extent. The happy lot of the Nightingale also generates a death wish in Keats and he puts it very clearly. “Now more than ever seems it rich to die”. But finally Keats comes back into the world of reality with tbe sound of just one word, ‘Forlorn’, a word that reminds him of the human lot.

Art versus life and transience versus permanence

      More or less the same thing happens in Ode on a Grecian Urn. Here the world of art becomes a substitute for the world, of nature as an agency providing shelter against extreme human misery. Again, the Urn is an immortal as the Nightingale and this is in direct contrast to the transitory values of human life. The world of art enjoys complete permanence. The Urn is an “Unravish’d bride of quietness”. So much so, it has given a touch of permanence even to the objects of earthly nature. The trees carved on the Urn are not going to shed leaves. The piper will always continue to pipe sweet melodies. Keats says to the lover on the Urn:

For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair.

      But with all this, towards the end of the poem, the realization dawns upon Keats that the permanence of the Urn. made it a silent speechless “Cold Pastoral’’ It lacks the Organic warmth of life’ Inspite of its permanence, it is dead like a machine. The realization marks the return of Keats from the world of art to the world of man and the realities of man.

Theme of the passage of time in “Ode to Autumn”

      Ode to Autumn is equally realistic in character. In the opening stanza of the poem we find sun at its height of maturity prepared,

“To load and bless
With fruit the vines”.

      But as the poem progresses, the day starts dawning and towards the close of the poem we have

“The soft dying day”.

      This coincides with the passage of seasons. In the beginning we have the season of “mellow fruitfulness,” but soon the warm day's are over and winter is about to set in for the poet asks,

“Where are the Songs of Spring?’’.

      Thus the hidden meaning in the poem is the ups and downs to which human life is always so prone.

‘‘Ode on Melancholy’’ a Study in the ways of life

      Ode on Melancholy is yet another poem dealing with the strange dilemmas of human life. We have beauty and joy as a source of pain because both beauty and joy have only a fleeting value. The hand of joy is “Ever at his lips...bidding Adieu”, and beauty is a thing “that must die”.

      At the same time, the poem also means that man must enjoy the pleasures of life to their full intensity because these pleasures can be over at any moment, but one must prepare himself well in advance for the gloomy period of his life also.


      Thus, we have seen that there is an undercurrent of a common subject and mood in the Odes of Keats, and this generates a still greater interest in the reader to study them more closely and enjoy them to the full.

University Questions

Show that the great Odes of Keats are a sequence showing an inter-relationship of mood and subject.
Bring out the close connections of thought which exist between the great Odes of Keats.

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