On The Grasshopper and Cricket: Summary & Analysis

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The Poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;

That is the Grasshopper’s—he takes the lead
In summer luxury,—he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.

Summary & Analysis

      In this sonnet, Keats has worked out in a simple form a thought which will be seen more elaborately in the Grecian Urn and Nightingale odes, namely, that there is a continuity in Nature and natural forms, compared with the limited life and short term activity of individuals. Hearing the nightingale, Keats says:

The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown

      So he ignores the fact that the bird which is singing for him is probably one year old, and says that the song has gone on for ages, even since the days of Ruth of the Bible story. In the Grecian Urn, the same continuity or immortal nature is attributed to objects and forms of art.

      Here a certain continuity is gained by connecting up the chirping of the grasshopper in the meadows during summer with the similar chirping of his cousin, cricket, an insect very similar to the grasshopper, which lives in old wood-work such as in-country farmhouses, and in recesses about the warm fire-side. Keats says:

      “The song of Nature is never silent. When the birds are tired and rest from the hot sun in shadowy trees, there is still heard a song which runs from hedge to hedge in the meadow where the grass has been newly cut. That is the grasshopper, for he takes the lead in summer enjoyment, and has never finished with his pleasures. When he is tired of playing, he rests beneath some pleasant grasses. But the song of Nature never ceases. On a quiet evening of winter, when the frost has silenced other voices of the countryside, from behind the fireplace there sounds of the chirping of the cricket, becoming ever more joyous. To one who is sitting over the fire, half asleep, it seems to be a continuation of the grasshopper’s song on the grassy hiss of summer-time”.

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