Ode to a Nightingale: Stanza 4 - Summary

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Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards.
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

Summary

      Lines 31—34. Away!.....retards: Keats here expresses in this highly figurative language, often characteristic of him, the power of the imagination to pass from the real world to the ideal world. The Nightingale’s ecstatic song reminded him of the pain that attends men in real life. He would avoid these pains with the help of his poetic imagination. He will go to the Nightingale’s song-laden world not with the help of wine—though that can also open out the joys of life to him; but on invisible wings of poetry, in spite of the fact that reason would obstruct his flight by its insistence upon realities. The winged god can make him forget realities, but does not take his help. Intellect insists on realities, but he ignores this insistence. In spite of everything, poetry helps him to pass away from the real world to the ideal world.

      Lines 35—40. Already with the.....and winding mossy ways: These lines occur in the fourth stanza of Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale. This poem captures the poet’s disgust with life and his desire to escape from its bitter realities into the dreamland of joy. For a while he thinks of drowning his grief in wine, but he thinks better of it and decides to transport himself on the wings of poesy. So swift is his imagination that he already finds himself in the forest with the nightingale.

      These lines and the stanza that follows describe the scene which the poet imagines. The moon is shining in the sky, surrounded by stars. The moon is like the fairies that surrounded her. Although the moon is bright but its rays, imagines the poet, cannot reach where the nightingale sings amidst the branches of some trees. The forest, he fancies, is dark. Now and then, when the breezes move the leaves and branches of the trees, the moon rays penetrate into the forest. That, indeed, is the only light in the forest. Thus the poet’s pictorial imagination paints a vivid picture of the scene.

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