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The names Wordsworth and Keats are to a certain extent tantamount to Romanticism, especially from the perspective of modern academics. To many, Wordsworth is seen as the father of English Romanticism as he was the first to publish literary works that were seen as romantic with Lyrical Ballads in 1798. Yet although John Keats was only born in 1795, he still contributed much to the Romantic Movement and is in essence regarded just as highly as William Wordsworth.
Characterized by freedom of the mind and an idealistic view of human nature, Romanticism slowly crept out of Neoclassicism to become one of the most influential periods of British literature. It is the emergence of this new literary period called Romanticism that stirred an interest in those who were hungry for a new form of writing and thought. This idea, although relatively short-lived and lasting only from 1798-1832, had enormous effects on the philosophy and literature of the time while leaving its mark on the history of England. Poets; William Wordsworth and John Keats, who are considered the landmark figures of romantic poetry, responded to the revolution through their literary works such as “I wandered lonely as a cloud” and “Ode to a Nightingale.”
Wordsworth poetry derives its strength from the passion with which he views nature. Wordsworth has grown tired of the world mankind has created, and turns to nature for contentment. In his poems, Wordsworth associates freedom of emotions with natural things. Each aspect of nature holds a different meaning for Wordsworth. Much like Wordsworth, Keats harnesses the power of his imagination and uses it to escape the confines of his prison like reality, the difference being Wordsworth comes out of his journey with a new way of thinking and a positive outlook on his current situation, where as Keats is returned to his original state, disoriented and unsure if he is sleeping or awake.
Comparison of John Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” and William Wordsworth’s “I wandered lonely as a cloud”
By comparing and analyzing their two poems, I will try to scrutinize Keats and Wordsworth respective treatment of theme as well as portrayal of nature. Keats and Wordsworth communicated their message to love nature in a style that we all can understand. Both poets intended to abandon the pompous idiom of eighteenth-century verse, and to employ the ‘real language’ of modern men and women – but of human beings ‘in a state of vivid sensation’, whilst they expressed themselves with natural eloquence. Their messages were cried during an “Age of Reason” where it fell on many deaf ears and so they stand as an inspiration to us all, that it is important to speak our minds even when we think that nobody is listening. They wrote about the beauty of nature during a time that hated nature. They wrote about the joy that nature could bring, when joy was termed “meaningless”. They wrote about metaphysical ideas in an empirical age. They have left their immortal work as a message for us all: ‘Never forget nature’.
Romantic poetry, despite the name, is not always about love and relationships. The theme of Nature is predominant in a lot of Romantic poetry, where questions arise as to what that nature is, what it symbolizes, and how it is interpreted. There are many different views on nature, and each poet explores them differently. Two poets that romanced nature during this era were: William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and John Keats (1795-1821). This essay has been written to compare Wordsworth and Keats treatment of theme as well as portrayal of nature in their poetry.
Both Wordsworth and Keats are romantic poets; they express ideas on nature and send us the message to respect it. They say we have to admire the beauty of nature in different ways. Wordsworth uses simpler language in his poems whether to express simple or complex ideas, by which we understand he aimed his poems to lower classes. Keats instead, uses much more complex language to describe and express his ideas, so we know he aimed his poems to the educated. During the romantic period, poets would mainly send out the message to admire nature and see the beauty in it that we should fine joy in nature and nature should be our teacher.
The poems are imagery poems and the figure of speech both poets use is somewhat similar. “I wandered Lonely as a Cloud” contains glances of recollections of the inner mind of the author. This poem describes the exquisite effect in which the outside world has upon the speaker. Keats’s poem on the other hands although mysterious and depressing, conveying beauty and splendor that shows a delineation of nature. “Ode to a Nightingale” is a poem in which the poet clearly shows his understanding of the hearts of the mankind and nature and he utilizes his attention to a lot of details and expressive language.
John Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” and William Wordsworth’s “I wandered lonely as a cloud” seem to have been written with the intention of describing a moment in one’s life, like that of the fleeting tune of a nightingale or the discovery of a field of daffodils by a lake. Within each of these moments a multitude of emotions are established, with each morphing from one to another very subtly. What are also more subtle about these two poems are their differences. While they do touch on very similar topics, the objects used to personify Keats’ ideas on death and immortality differs from Wordsworth’s ideas on an inherent unity between man and nature. Thus, the ideas represented by them do diverge at different points in the poems as well.
John Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale”
John Keats is known as one of the greatest poets of the 19th century. It is how powerfully he is able to evoke the beauty in things that are so ordinary to the normal viewer. He gives a lot more in-depth meaning to the words in his poems that capture all of the reader’s senses. Keats uses this beauty to create a central theme in one of his prominent poems, “Ode to a Nightingale”. The beauty in “Ode to a Nightingale” is that of the Nightingale’s song. The beautiful song of the nightingale is reminding the poet of his own mortality by singing to his senses. It is the beauty that he sees in the world which makes it apparent that society is destined to perish and die. Keats shows the deepest expression of human mortality in this poem as he discusses the relationship to mature age and how it compares to the fluid song of the Nightingale. The man in the poem longs to flee from the world he lives and join the bird in its world.
After losing his mother and brother to tuberculosis, and developing signs of the sickness himself, John Keats begins to analyze life and death in his personal poem “Ode to a Nightingale”. Keats’s symbolism of the Nightingale and the contrast between life and death reveals his changing view of life resulting in the belief of death being his means to overcome pain. Keats begins this revelation by describing the beauty of life, but his use of fantasy words foreshadows a change in his outlook. By using the symbolism of the nightingale, Keats becomes uncertain of his view of life and begins to ponder the concept of death. In the conclusion, Keats feels deceived by the nightingale’s representation of life, and desires death to overcome his pain instead of enduring it in life.
As Keats continues his thoughts, he becomes more and more skeptical of life. Fascinated by the nightingale, Keats recognizes the bird’s innocence: “What thou among the leaves hast never known, /The weariness, The fever, and the fret”. One would fret when uneasy or uncertain towards a matter. Keats reveals that the nightingale is oblivious to the concept of death as it sings its melody. The nightingale is completely free for it does not know about death. Keats becomes tormented by the innocence and freedom of the bird, as all of Keats’ uncertainties regarding life and death overwhelm him: “Where but to think is to be full of sorrow”. Living his life brings a constant reminder of his pain, driving Keats to change his opinion of life and death.
The ode consists of eight stanzas, each containing ten lines. The rhyme scheme (ababcdecde) has a link to the sonnet form, with each stanza uniting a Shakespearian quatrain (abab) with a Petrarchan sextet (cdecde). This stanzaic prosody is characteristic of Keats’s odes, and may well have evolved from his intensive work and theory on the sonnet form. The opening lines of the poem make use of heavy vowel sounds to slow them down (e.g. “heart,” “aches,” “drowsy,” and “numbness”). In lines 1-3, Keats expresses a wish to dull and numb his senses artificially. He wishes to use “hemlock” or “some dull opiate” to numb his pain. He also makes a reference to Lethe, the river that those who are about to be reincarnated must drink from to forget their old lives when he says in line 4 that he has to “Lethe-wards sunk”. However it is not out of envy of the joy in the bird’s song but because he is too happy that he wishes to numb his senses. In line 7 Keats refers to the nightingale as a “Dryad of the trees”, a tree spirit, as the bird has become a symbol.
In stanza two, Keats call “for a draught of vintage” that tastes of “Flora and country-green”. In line 14 the wine tastes of “Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!”. “Provencal” was a language used by medieval troubadours. Here Keats does not want to be drunk but rather he wants the wine to get into a state of happiness and merriment. He also wishes the wine to inspire him when he alludes to the “Hippocrene” in line 16, a fountain sacred to the muses said to bring poetic inspiration to those who drank from it. The idea that wine will give him ideas is illustrated in line 17 with “beaded bubbles winking at the brim”. Besides describing the Hippocrene, the bubbles are Keats’ thoughts about to overflow. Drink is also a way for him to escape as he wishes to “fade away into the forest dim”.
In the sixth stanza, Keats reveals his desire to die: “Now more than ever seems it rich to die, to cease upon the midnight with no pain”. His pain is so overwhelming that even death would be a better option than living with the pain. Keats then speaks of the nightingale as a “deceiving elf”, because of the distracting effect of its music. Nature is the only thing which can bring him joy. Medicine, vintage wine and sleep have brought him only sorrow but when he looks to nature, even a Nightingale, his heart is lifted and joy enters in.
In the ode, the speaker responds to the beauty of the nightingale’s song with a both “happiness” and “ache”. Though he seeks to fully identify with the bird – to “fade away into the forest dim” – he knows that his own human consciousness separates him from nature and precludes the kind of deathless happiness the nightingale enjoys. First the intoxication of wine and later the “viewless wings of Poesy” seem reliable ways of escaping the confines of the “dull brain”, but finally it is death itself that seems the only possible means of overcoming the knowledge and fear of time. The nightingale, after all, is “immortal” because it “wast not born for death” and cannot conceive of its own passing. Yet without consciousness, humans cannot experience beauty, and the speaker knows that if he were dead his perception of the nightingale’s call would not exist at all. This paradox shatters his vision, the nightingale flies off, and the speaker is left to wonder whether his experience has been a truthful “vision” or a false “dream”.
Keats’ relationship with the bird clearly changes as the text progresses and his consciousness drift into a dreaming, imaginative space. In the first stanza, Keats refers to it with awe, using phrases such as “Light-winged Dryad of the trees,” but by the seventh stanza refers to it simply as “bird”. Indeed, in the final stanza the speaker addresses the animal as “deceiving elf”, implying irritation at the nightingale’s hypnotic song for the effect it had on him. Similarly, his views about the nightingale’s song change as the poem progresses, the description “high requiem” giving way to “plaintive anthem” in the final stanza. The turn in the poem occurs when Keats repeats the word “Forlorn!” between the penultimate and final stanzas. He is wakened from his close reverie with the bird by the sound of the word “forlorn,” and he finds the bird flying away from the poetic dream space that provided the atmosphere of most of the ode. Keats’s confusion marks the closing lines of the poem, in which he asks: “Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Fled is that music:–Do I wake or sleep?” Among the thematic concerns in this poem is the wish to escape life through different routes. Although the poem begins by describing the song of an actual nightingale, the nightingale goes on to become a symbol of the immortality of nature.
William Wordsworth’s “I wandered lonely as a cloud”
Besides John Keats, William Wordsworth was also considered as one of the pioneers in the romanticist movement. As a great poet of nature, he wrote many famous poems to express his love for nature, one of which is “I wandered lonely as a cloud”. In the narrative poem, the poet successfully compared his loneliness with the happy and vital daffodils. The daffodils, the symbol of the nature, bring great joy and relief to the speaker. So Wordsworth’s conception of nature is that nature has a lot to do with man, it can not only refresh one’s soul and fill one with happiness, but it can also be reduced into a beautiful memory which will comfort one’s heart when in solitude.
William Wordsworth’s “I wandered lonely as a cloud” is a lyric poem, which deals with the speaker’s state of mind. The description of the process, which the speaker goes through, is represented by a natural scene where the speaker, plants and the surroundings become united. The poem is written in a figurative language, combining images, similes and words that denote mood, atmosphere and colors to reflect the changes in the speaker’s position. These changes are physical, psychological and emotional.
I chose the poem “I wandered lonely as a cloud” by William Wordsworth because I like the imagery in it of dancing daffodils. Upon closer examination, I realized that most of this imagery is created by the many metaphors and similes Wordsworth uses. In the first line, Wordsworth says “I wandered lonely as a cloud”. This is a simile comparing the wondering of a man to a cloud drifting through the sky. I suppose the wandering cloud is lonely because there is nothing up there that high in the sky besides it. It can pass by unnoticed, touching nothing. Also, the image of a cloud brings to mind a light, carefree sort of wandering. The cloud is not bound by any obstacle, but can go wherever the whim of the wind takes it. The next line of poem says “I saw a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils”. Here Wordsworth is using a metaphor to compare the daffodils to a crowd of people and a host of angels. The word crowd brings to mind an image of the daffodils chattering amongst one another, leaning their heads near each other in the wind. The word host makes them seem like their golden petals are shimmering like golden halos on angels. It is interesting to note that daffodils do have a circular rim of petals in the middle that could look like a halo. Later in the poem Wordsworth uses another simile, saying the dancing of daffodils in the wind is “continuous as the stars that shine and twinkle on the milky way”. This line creates the image of the wind blowing the tops of random daffodils up and down in a haphazard matter, so they appear to glint momentarily as their faces catch the sun. This goes along with the next metaphor of the daffodils “tossing their heads in sprightly dance”. Comparing their movement to a dance also makes me think of swirling, swishing yellow skirts moving in harmony.
It is also interesting how the first image of the wandering cloud contrasts sharply with the second image of the dancing daffodils. The cloud drifts in solitude slowly and placidly across the sky, whereas the daffodils hurry to and fro in an energetic, lively scramble. This contrast seems to show that looking at the daffodils made the author feel better than he did before, that they cheered him up. This idea is supported by the last line of poem, where he says his heart “with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils” whenever he thinks of them.
The speaker says that, wandering like a cloud floating above hills and valleys, he encountered a field of daffodils beside a lake. The dancing, fluttering flowers stretched endlessly along the shore, and though the waves of the lake danced beside the flowers, the daffodils outdid the water in glee. The speaker says that a poet could not help but be happy in such a joyful company of flowers. He says that he stared and stared, but did not realize what wealth the scene would bring him. For now, whenever he feels “vacant” or “pensive,” the memory flashes upon “that inward eye / That is the bliss of solitude,” and his heart fills with pleasure, “and dances with the daffodils”.
Throughout Wordsworth’s poem he uses personification. Personification is giving human like characteristics to things that are not human. He personifies the images of the daffodils and the waves in such a way that a melancholy tone is created. Throughout the poem he seems to be day dreaming, escaping reality through nature, and giving human characteristics to objects that normally have none. For example in lines 4, 5, and 6, he states, “A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” Wordsworth is giving the daffodils human like characteristics, as in “dancing in the breeze”. Another example of Wordsworth using personification in the poem is in line 13, when he states; “The waves beside them danced”. Again, giving human characteristics to something not human. The four six-line stanzas of this poem follow a quatrain-couplet rhyme scheme: (ababcc). Each line is metered in iambic tetrameter.
This simple poem, one of the loveliest and most famous in the Wordsworth canon, revisits the familiar subjects of nature and memory, this time with a particularly (simple) spare, musical eloquence. The plot is extremely simple, depicting the poet’s wandering and his discovery of a field of daffodils by a lake, the memory of which pleases him and comforts him when he is lonely, bored, or restless. The characterization of the sudden occurrence of a memory – the daffodils “flash upon the inward eye / Which is the bliss of solitude” – is psychologically acute, but the poem’s main brilliance lies in the reverse personification of its early stanzas. The speaker is metaphorically compared to a natural object, a cloud – “I wandered lonely as a cloud / That floats on high…”, and the daffodils are continually personified as human beings, dancing and “tossing their heads” in “a crowd, a host”. This technique implies an inherent unity between man and nature, making it one of Wordsworth’s most basic and effective methods for instilling in the reader the feeling the poet so often describes himself as experiencing. Romantic poet William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” extols the virtue of nature and highlights the value of participating in its beauty.
In “Ode to a Nightingale” and” I wandered lonely as a cloud “, both poems tells of an experience in which the human characters encounters nature in the poems, and the experiences are handled quite differently in the two poems. Of particular interest is the use of nature imageries by two romantic poets. John Keats once listened to a bird song and gifted us with his Ode to a Nightingale. The daffodils inspire William Wordsworth and through his vision of the flowers we are privy to its beauty. Natures have always held significance in human lives. They achieved heights unattainable to humans and sung while they did that. These two poets use nature as their muse and also symbolically for the human experience. The two poems, “Ode to a Nightingale” and “I wandered lonely as a cloud”, clearly portray both of the poets’ treatment on the idea of escape. Both poems construct vivid illusions but insist on their desolating failure. The poems do seem similar in several ways because in both, Keats and Wordsworth do portray symbols of realism while depicting the nature, as well as the spectrum of emotions from grief to joy.
The two poems, namely, “Ode to a Nightingale” and “I wandered lonely as a cloud” appeal directly to the physical senses through a recognition of the physical reality of experience. However, such simplified conclusion is misleading as it disregards the poets’ complex thought process – where sensuousness and contemplation get unified. Both these poems require differing senses to be able to understand them. By comparing and contrasting the aspects of each poem, it is clear that all the elements relate directly, but differently to human spirit and human emotions. The central themes of the two poems are neither a nightingale nor a daffodil, but, the poets’ eternal search for a center of refuge in a world of flux. It is through such a conception that Keats and Wordsworth sets to resolve the dichotomy between the world of the ideal and that of reality within the order of experience.
“Literature is experience, not information, and the students must be invited to participate in it, not simple observe it from outside. Thus the students is very important – not simply a recipient of information, but rather a maker of knowledge out of meetings with literary texts.”~ Probst (1988: Preface)
Having a literary text to read and to teach, an educator is not merely teaching books or become the enabler for the students to become the readers of the texts, yet an educator should be seen as the “ozone” protecting and shielding the students from the harm rays that could cause detriment to the students. Harm rays could be regarded as the speeding contagious social and moral issues that seem endless nowadays. In education wise, I sturdily believe and convince that both poems; “I wandered lonely as a cloud” and “Ode to a Nightingale”, that I have chosen could actually give big impacts and significant implications on the field of education by instilling the moral values and significant lessons in which could be retrieved and learned by the students.
Keats and Wordsworth communicated their message to love nature in a style that we all can understand. Both poets intended to abandon the pompous idiom of eighteenth-century verse, and to employ the ‘real language’ of modern men and women – but of human beings ‘in a state of vivid sensation’, whilst they expressed themselves with natural eloquence. Their messages were cried during an “Age of Reason” where it fell on many deaf ears and so they stand as an inspiration to us all, that it is important to speak our minds even when we think that nobody is listening. They wrote about the beauty of nature during a time that hated nature. They wrote about the joy that nature could bring, when joy was termed “meaningless”. They wrote about metaphysical ideas in an empirical age. They have left their immortal work as a message for us all: ‘Never forget nature’.
Apart from that, both of the poems provide ample space for teacher to teach across and the students to at least acquire some cultural development. In both texts, students would be able to perceive tradition of thoughts, feeling and artistic form within the literature found in this culture. Apart, human sense would gives literature a central place to study humanities since the poems are characterized by freedom of the mind and an idealistic view of human nature, which would enhanced students understanding that ideologies differs from their own time and space yet still rules out by norms. Meanwhile, students could also see how nature would become the vital entity of making a decision. The giving up on materialism would indicate the students that social responsibility is outstandingly more important than other things. Students would get the values of conservation of nature that would be the best choice not only for oneself but also to others. Teacher may perhaps ask students to put themselves in the persona’s position and what will they do if they face such situations. This would lead students to imaginatively engage with the text thus strengthening some values that they already uphold based from their upbringing, norms and personal view. Via this way, indirectly, reading of literature would be memorable to an individual.
In conclusion, both poems, “I wandered lonely as a cloud” and “Ode to a Nightingale”, have brings out the issue of nature to the students and how the dilemma resolved; most importantly the students will look on how ‘the action done by the personas based on the right decision made’ will actually brings something prominent that would give a greater effects for their next coming future. Therefore, I am gravely believed and convinced that both literary texts are very reliable and very good to be used as the teaching materials especially for the secondary school as it provide vast of knowledge for the students to grasp some meaningful values that emerge from the text.
AppendixJOHN KEATS (1795-1821)
Ode to a Nightingale
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,–
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
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.
AppendixI cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain–
To thy high requiem become a sod.
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:–Do I wake or sleep?
AppendixWILLIAM WORDSWORTH (1770-1850)
I wandered lonely as a cloud
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed — and gazed — but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
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