Some things at a time like this take on a certain significance in one's life. This is due to the lack of freedom, as normal movements taken for granted, have been removed. ln moments like these l find myself turning to poetry as a source of inspiration or simply as a kind of consolation.

John Keats (1795-1821) was certainly one of the greatest English poets whose genius has been compared to William Shakespeare. Keats built his objects from his imagination, creating objects inside his head as a kind of celebration of the inner senses. Since Keats was such a sickly individual, dying at the age of 26 years of age of tuberculosis, his ability was to create magnificent fragmentations by his genial creative use of his imagination. We, in our present state of isolation, can profit enormously from what Keats instructs us to do - the personal and creative use of our imagination.

Keats visits many different vistas of foreign places but as a poet through 'the viewless wings of poetry' as he would say. In one of his greatest odes, he does exactly that. In “Ode to an Nightingale” Keats again through his creative use of his imagination describes the effects of the Nightingale’s song as so intense as to resemble a drug:

'My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock l had drunk
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains.’

This anticipates Keats' desire to escape from the pains of human life and so to follow the Nightingale into the forest:

'That l might drink and leave the world unseen
And with thee fade away into the forest dim’.

Keats then embarks on an imaginary journey into the Nightingale’s world to escape from human sorrows:

'here where men sit and hear each other groan
Where palsy shakes a few sad last grey hairs,
Where youth grows pale and spectre-thin and dies'.

The next verses are masterly registered in terms of touch, smell and hearing:

'I 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 emergence of Keats advocating a death-wish seems unusual but maybe understandable in that:

'‘I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain.’

However, Keats knows that the Nightingale is mortal like himself since both are subject to mortality. But the Nightingale’s song is immortal- it survives in every generation, that same intense beauty entranced kings and peasants alike and its song found a path, ' Through the sad heart of Ruth' who was comforted by this song in exile.

In the last verse, Keats begins with the word 'forlorn'. Here we have Keats’ conflicting feelings - the tension which is embodied in his desire to vanish the Nightingale as a 'deceiving elf' and his uncertainty of human existence:

'Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music- do l wake or sleep'.

Keats’ poem shows the embodiment of an imaginary, powerfully attractive ideal, a dream of perfect happiness, measured against the distresses and uncertainties of real life.


Tommy Halferty

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 Provençal 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.
I 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?