An Ode to the Nightingale

Posted by on Oct-3-2009

The yellow colored light was flickering on Raziya’s face, the light from the camp fire.

Evening. Chilling breeze. Starlit sky.  Raziya.

She is beside me, but she is away.  Raziya is contemplating.

She has bound herself in a chiffon shawl. I can barely see her eyes.

I waited for her to break the silence. And she does.   She softly raises her voice and says a few lines. A poem this time.

Here, where men sit and hear each other groan
Where Palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs
Where youth grows pale, spectre thin and dies,
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow,
And leaden-eyed despair
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eye
Or new Love pine at them beyond tomorrow.

Yes I can recollect it; it is from the Ode to the Nightingale by John Keats.
I asked Raziya why did she whispered these few lines.

She slowly raised her voice and said- “Yesterday when I was sitting on the bank of river. I heard a nightingale singing and this reminded me the great ode by Keats. My thoughts went wild and I started thinking about life and death”.

Raziya’s words turned me speechless.  Nothing is immortal and everything has a painful end.

Ode is a lyrical verse. ‘Ode to the Nightingale’ revolves around the concepts of immortality, the problems of being human and Keats desire to join the nightingale. The nightingale represents perfection, everlasting beauty and its immortality is a stark contrast to the temporary nature of a human life. In this Ode he suggests two ways to immortalize the blissful moments. First, he wishes for an ‘easeful death’ at the blissful moment to eternalize the bliss. Secondly, he wants to take the help of ‘the viewless wings of Poes’, that is, poetry, to perpetuate happiness.

Keat’s odes are fine examples of a perfect paradox. The idea of joy in immortal beauty and acceptance of transience form the basis of Keats had mastered the technique synthesizing the two. Thus, the theme that recurs in all the odes is transience versus permanence. Keats is one of the romantic poets apart from William Blake. Ode to the nightingale is based on the nightingale who had built its nest near his home in the spring of 1819.

The poem was the second of the five great odes of 1819. In his odes Keats is emotionally concerned with the fleeting nature of beauty, joy and love. He is always pre-occupied with finding a way of perpetuating the ephemeral.

Death is accepted as something inherent in the cycle and ripeness implies dissolution. The problem of transience and permanence, thus, vanishes. Keats finds an earthly, human, natural paradise which ‘whoever seeks abroad may find’.

Now, yet again, Raziya is silent. I’m waiting…

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  1. Dwight Said,


    thank you….

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