‘’Where is the Pastoral Tradition in Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale?’’
Two hundred years after the Renaissance period in England, critics became concerned in the reasoning behind John Keats’s poetry. They searched many of the origins of the poet’s references to his works and this gave assistance into asserting that he was a poet in search of the ideal to escape from the real world of ‘’fever and fret’’. (Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale: stanza 3) This is due to the experience of cruel disappointments in his personal life.
Ode to a Nightingale is a fine example of the cruel disappointments that Keats faced in life for he wrote the Ode soon after the death of his brother Tom who was suffering ...view middle of the document...
It has often been categorised as a ‘’a double longing after innocence and happiness, based on the antithesis of Art and Nature. ’’ (Greg 1906: 5) We can see this in Shakespeare’s As you like it where he makes ‘Arden’ a faithful image of the Golden Age.
Other poets like Renato Poggioli define the realm of pastoral as being a ‘’ wishful dream of a happiness to be gained without effort’’ (Alpers 1982: 438)
It would therefore be difficult to assert an exact definition of the provincial hence the heart of this essay will examine all of the above as being pastoral.
Ode to a Nightingale is about the author making a retreat in nature with the song of a nightingale, whilst explaining the effects that is produced on him. Bearing in mind that the pastoral usually includes a resistance between an epitome of nature and reality, and a dissention between the quest for easiness and a complicated critical society; it is not surprising that Keats has perceived this poem as a convivial medium to write about the pastoral tradition. Devastated by the reality that surrounded his existence, the poet decided to retreat into the green world of the nightingale:
‘’Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thy 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.’’ (Keats’s Ode to a nightingale: stanza 1)
There are two important features to think about here, the ‘green world’ and the ‘nightingale’.
The ‘green world’ also celebrated as nature is something that is much used by pastoral poets in their poems. John Milton’s ‘’Lycidas’’ for example is full of charming descriptions of the idyllic beauty of nature:
‘’Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies,
The tufted crow-toe, and pale jessamine,
The musk rose, and the well-attired woodbine,
With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head’’ (Milton’s Lycidas: stanza 9)
Andrew Marvell’s ‘’The Garden’’ is another example of how nature is used in the pastoral world:
‘’No white nor red was ever seen
So am’rous as this lovely green
Fond lovers, cruel as their flame,
Cut in these trees their mistress’ name…’’ (Marvell’s the Garden: stanza 3)
Keats in Ode to a Nightingale uses the green world as an instrument of sanctuary to escape from the pain of real life. In the first stanza of the Ode, we find the poet experiencing relief by the feeling of renewed life when he comments on the ‘’ light- winged Dryad of the trees’’. In the second stanza he yearns for a wine fermented in the cheerful areas of Provence; whilst wishing for this wine to allow him to retire from the world of truth and to take flight in the forest where he can bond with the nightingale:
‘’O for a draught of vintage, that hath been
Cool’d for a long age in the deep- delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provencal song and sunburnt...