Ode to a Nightingale Questions and Answers
- “My heart aches”-Why does the poet’s heart ache? What is hemlock? What is ‘Lethe”?
Ans. The poet’s heart aches as he hears the nightingale’s song. The happy song of the bird benumbs his body and aches his heart.
Hemlock is a kind of poison. John Keats thinks that this poison has paralysed his senses.
‘Lethe’ is the river of forgetfulness. Everybody has to cross this river after his death. Keats thinks that as if he has drunk the water of the river and forgets everything. But his mood of oblivion is caused by the soothing effect of the nightingale’s song.
- Explain-“light winged Dryad” and “full throated ease”
Ans. Keats has used the first expression to indicate the Nightingale and the second expression to indicate its heavenly song. According to ancient mythology, Dryad, a deity lived in trees of forest. Here, Nightingale is called to be the dryad because it lives among the trees. While living among the trees, Nightingale sings in a loud voice and the earth below is overflowed with its spontaneous and heavenly melody.
- Why and with whom does the poet want to leave this earth?
Ans. Under the impact of a mouthful of vintage, that is preserved underground for a long time, the poet wants to leave this world because he is disgusted with his present existence. The conuntless troubles and hazards have crushed the poet’s romantic soul. He can’t see the unspeakable mind one is suffering around him. So, he has no way but to leave this world.
Keats prefers to vanish himself from this world with the Nightingale bird. The bird’s song brings to him perfect pleasure. So on the wings of this song, he wants to retire from this world.
- How does Keats explain human life on earth?
Ans. Keats, the junior romantic poet depicts a miserable and dismal human existence on earth. Here everybody’s life is fraught with sorrows and sufferings. People are always groaning in pain. youth and beauty are subjected to premature destruction. In the last phase of life, they become thin like ghost. Indeed, it is a world ruled by death, disease, destruction-the havocs of time.
- Explain-“not charioted by Bacchus and his pards.”- How will he join the Nightingale then?
Ans. Bacchus is the Roman God of wine. His chariot is drawn by leopards. Hearing the nightingale’s song, the poet wanted to forget the misery of this world under the influence of wine. But as Bacchus is the God of wine, he decides to do it otherwise and not under the influence of wine.
The poet wants to mingle himself with the world of nightingale by means of poetic imagination. That’s why, he says that he will reach the world of the nightingale “on the viewless wings of poesy.”
- How does the poem explain the natural setting?
Ans. Keats wrote this poem hearing the song of a nightingale bird while he was spending his days in a friend’s house in Hampsted in 1819. The natural setting where he heard this song was really beautiful. There were white hawthorns, pastoral eglantine, fast fading violets covered in leaves, musk-rose full of dewy wine in the garden present before the poet. Moreover, the grass, the thicket and wild fruit trees increased the beauty of the setting. But, embalmed darkness gave the magnetic charm to all these.
- Why is Keats in love with death? How does he want to die?
Ans. Keats had experienced so many sufferings in his short life span. He lost his brother, Tom Keats and was cheated by Fanny Brawne. Moreover, the problems of the common lot made him think too much. So this earthly life was too much. for him. He was not in any mood to continue his life anymore. He thought that death would relieve him from this burden. So to escape the fret and fever of this earth, he was in love with death.
He longs to die easefully white listening to the high pitched song of the nightingale.
- “To thy high requiem become a sod”-Give the meaning of ‘requiem’ and ‘sod’. Give the poet’s meaning here.
Ans. Requiem is a song or prayer dedicated to a dead person. ‘Sod’ means the surface of earth. But here, it indicates grave.
The poet knows that he will die a painless death while listening to the nightingale’s song. In that case, he will be free from the burden of existence. But, when he will be in his grave, the bird will continue its heavenly songs without caring anything. So the poet slightly regrets that when he will die, the never ending songs of the nightingale will be inaudible to him.
- ‘Now more than ever seem it rich to die’-Explain.
Ans. Keats always wanted to get relief from this mundane plain, pregnant with sorrows and sufferings. His practical experience never inspired him to continue his life on earth. But, to embrace death premanturely is a difficult task undoubtedly. He found all the time a means to lose his life but in vain. But, now he listens to the bird’s songs in a moonlit night. It increases his euthanasia. Resting on the wings of happiness, he wants to die now without the feeling of any pain. So, to him death is now very easy to embrace.
- How does Keats prove that nightingale bird is immortal?
Ans. Truly speaking, a nightingale bird can never be immortal because death is a must factor to all earthly creatures. But here, Keats gives a different explanation. To him, this bird is immortal due to its song. One bird may die but others will take birth and they will continue their song for an infinite time. So a few hungry people may kill a few birds but ceasing their songs is very difficult task for anybody to do. In this way, the nightingale birds are immortal.
- Who for ages had heard the nightingale’s song?
Ans. Keats imagines that the nightingale’s song was heard in ancient time by many emperors and clowns. Ruth, a moabitess mentioned in ‘Old Testament’ also heard this song while she was reaping in an alien land. Even, the medieval ladies captivated in enchanted castle on the perilous seas also soothed their disappointed hearts, hearing this song through open window. Even rich as well as poor are hearing the same song for ages together.
- Why does Keats call ‘fancy’ a “deceiving-‘elf”?
Ans. On a fine moonlit night, Keats listened to the superb tune of a nightingale. Immediately, he was carried to the nightingale’s world on the viewless wings of poesy. Thus, for the time being, he was able to forget the fever, fret, sorrows, suffering of the world. But very soon this spell was broken. From his trance like state he comes back to the world of reality. He understands that fancy may give him a temporary but not any permanent relief to him from the bitterness of life. So he calls fancy a “deceiving elf.”
- Explain the Ruth episode.
Ans. Ruth was a moabitess married to a Jew in Mob. When her husband died she went to the land of Judah in Palestine to help her mother-in-law in her troubles. Her story is available in The Old Testament’. She was really very sorry for she was far away from her near and dear ones.
Keats has painted a romantic picture of Ruth. While reaping in an alien field, tears rolled down profusely from her eyes in the memory of her personal experience. Of course her tragic heart was consoled by nightingale’s song.
- Keats calls Nightingale ‘immortal bird’. How can a bird be immortal? What does the poet mean to say?
Ans. Nightingale’s song transported the poet in a flash from the world of time to the world of eternity. It has been singing for ages and ages. Thus, to the part in the moment of ecstasy the Nightingale is not a Solitary bird singing from its hiding place-the bird is turned into a song- the bird and the song is one and, therefore, immortal-not born for death but the reveller of Infinite.
- What does the song the bird represent?
Ans. The song of the Nightingale represents beauty-ideal beauty that never fades. It is the eternal spirit of beauty; it is the voice of eternity that transcends the bounds of space and time.
- “My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk.”
-What is hemlock? What has brought about this aching condition?
Ans. Hemlock means a kind of poison. Keats feels that he has drunk the juice of hemlock that benumbs him.
This aching condition arises not out of suffering but of intense joy–the joy that the poet finds in the nightingale’s song. In fact he is not envious of the ‘happy lot of the bird but is rather ‘too happy’ in its happiness.
- “One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk,” -Who has sunk ‘Lethe-wards’? What is ‘Lethe’? Why has he sunk so?
Ans. The poet, John Keats has sunk Lethe-wards. Lethe is the river of oblivion which is situated, according to Greek mythology. in Hades, the underworld. Those who drink of its water forget all about their past life. Keats here feels like one, being soothed under the bower of nightingale’s song, who has drunk the water of the River of Forgetfullness.
- Why is the nightingale called ‘Light-winged Dryad’? What does the phrase ‘full throated ease’ signify?
Ans. Dryad, according to Greek Mythology, was tree-nymph (lesser goddesses) living in trees. Each nymph had its on tree and died when the tree ceased to exist. The nightingale is compared to a wood nymph because such birds in England sang in the woods. Keats Hellenic imagination naturally thinks of the bird as a Dryad with its wings not weighed down by the burden of life.
‘Full-throated case’ Signifies that the nightingale sang in a loud and cheerful manner without any strain; in a free and spontaneous way.
- “O, for a draught of vintage….and sunburnt mirth !” -What urges the poet to take wine? Explain “Sunburnt-mirth”.
Ans. The poet longs for a ‘mirthful vintage’ (wine) irt order to transport himself from the world of reality full of sorrow, fret and unhappiness to the world of nightingale.
Here ‘sun-burnt mirth’ fuses the idea of sun’s warmth with the warmth of joy in the merry-makers who celebrated the festival of flora, the Roman goddess of flowers. This is aptly sensuous expression with its references to gay and merry making-the cool wine, the Provencal song and the blissful hippocrene with its babbles at the brim..
- ‘O, for a draught of vintage, that hath been.’-Describe the vintage in ‘Ode to nightingale.’
Ans. In order to join the world of nightingale, Keats longs for a cupful of red wine which has been cooled for a long time in a deep cellar.
- How does the poet wish to leave the world?
Ans. Poet’s living world is full of sorrow and suffering. He wants to leave the world without noticing by any one. He wants to do so in order that he could reach the forest dim’ where lives the nightingale. He prepares to escape from this world by drinking first hemlock, then opium, and finally wines of special kind.
- What makes the poet to resolve to ‘fade far away’?
Ans. The poet is determined to ‘fade far away’ the unhappy memories of life because the nightingale’s land represents a world of ideal beauty and happiness not to be found in his own world where men suffer from ‘the weariness’, ‘fever’ and ‘fret’. Hence with all his heart he wants to escape from this sorrowful world and to go to the land of nightingale.
- How has Keats draw the human world of sorrow?
Ans. To the poet human world is a helpless and pathetic world for the old-one where they ‘sit and hear each other groan’. It is a place where paralysis keeps the body of an old man unmoving while it ‘shakes of few, sad, last grey hairs’ of his. Nor does this place keep the youth immune from decay. Here a young man grows pale, becomes lean and thin, and dies a premature death. Here beautiful man and woman cannot keep the lustre of his/her eyes. Here everyone suffers from weariness, fever and fret.
- How does the poet propose to join the world of Nightingale?
Ans. The poet wishes to join the world of the nightingale by sipping the juice of hemlock, by drinking a mouthful of wine and also a cupful of red wine made in ‘the warm south’ and as inspiring as the clear waters of hippocrene with ‘beaded bubbles winking at the brim. However, he soon rejects wine for he has no intention of being carried in the chariot of Bacchus drawn by leopards, and finds that ‘the viewless wings of poesy’ alone will help him reach the place of nightingale.
- How does Keats describe the world of nightingale?
Ans. Nightingale’s world is sensuous. The poet reaches there with ‘the viewless wings of poesy’. The night is tender. The queen moon is on her throne surrounded by star-like fairies. In the fragrant darkness he could smell various flowers that have adorned ‘the grass, the thicket, and the fruit tree wild’. They include “white hawthron”, “pastoral eglantine”, “fast-fading violets” and “the coming musk rose” and serve as “the murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves’.
- Why is the poet seized with the idea of death? How does the poet prefer to die?
Ans. When the poet finds that the world where he lives is full of sorrow and suffering, when he notices that neither love nor beauty, two precious treasures of mankind, last here for long, he is seized with the idea of death.
The poet wants to surrender to death while listening to the melodious song of the nightingale.
- Why does the poet finally bid adieu to the poetic fancy?
Ans. It is undeniable that the poet reached the land of nightingale, neither with opium nor with wine but with the help of his poetic fancy. Yet he bids adieu to fancy because he observes that it has no power to keep him confined to the bird’s world for ever. The power fails and he is made to return reality. Still he is indebted to fancy because it momentarily helps him to land into the land of happiness. Hence he bids good bye to fancy since he knows it will not let him fly to the ideal world so easily.
- “Forlorn! the very word is like a bell.”
-Why does the word ‘forlorn’ sound like a bell?
Ans. The sound of this shocking word is like the sound of a bell. The poet’s lonely-sole self is brought back from the company of nightingale. It breaks the poet’s trance and makes him to land into the land of reality, full of fever and fret.
- Who bore the music of Nightingale from the down of civilization?
Ans. In Keats imagination the nightingale’s song had been listened to by many in ancient times. Ruth mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible might have heard while harvesting in an alien field. The poet imagined that the imprisoned lady in the castle opened her window to listen to this song in the middle ages. By the depictions of these references the poet reveals that the song of the nightingale has been listened to throughout the ages by all.
- How does the poet describe the fading away of the ‘plaintive anthem’?
Ans. At last the poet returns to reality. The nightingale’s song no more appears joyous to him. In tune with the harshness of the human world the song of the nightingale, too, is changed into a ‘plaintive anthem’, into a melancholy song. It begins to fade away. First it travels past the near meadows, then it moves across the quiet stream, afterwards to goes up the steep hill side, and finally it, sinks in the deep valley-glades becoming inaudible altogether.
- ‘Do I wake or sleep’-Explain.
Ans. The immense joy and repose the poet found in the world of Nightingale is still fresh in his mind. He has forgotten nothing of this wonderful world. At the same time he cannot deny the harsh reality lying before his eyes. It is impossible for ‘him now to forget any constituent of it. So he finds himself in an intricate situation in which he feels the pull of the two world-the ideal and the real is in equal proportion upon him. Being unable to judge whose attraction is greater upon him he lets his poem end in a question- -‘Do I awake or sleep? This indicates that he hovers between a state of sleep and that of wake fullness’ forgetting neither the land of nightingale nor that of reality.
- Name the different flowers mentioned in Keats’ ‘Ode to a Nightingale.’
Ans. Keats has mentioned different flowers like white how- thorn, pastoral eglantine, fast-fading violet and mask rose. These convey Keats’ sensuousness.
- What type of an Ode is Keats’ poem?
Ans. Keats “Ode to a Nightingale” is cast in the mould of a regular Horatian ode. The metrical scheme structure was invented by Shelley himself and consists of ten lines which are in Iambic pentameter but unlike his other odes, it is metrically variable, the eighth line of each stanza being written in tri-meter.
- What is the metrical pattern of the poem?
Ans. Like most other odes, ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ is written in ten-line stanzas though it is metrically variable in that eighth line of every stanza is written in trimeter. Each stanza in the poem is rhymed abab cde cde.
- What is the central theme of the poem?
Ans. With ‘Ode to Nightingale’, Keats’ speaker in the poem begins his fullest and deepest exploration of the themes of creative expression and mortality of human life. In this ode, the transience of human life and tragedy of old age is set against the eternal renewal of the nightingale’s fluid music.
- What does the poet persona want to do on hearing the song of the nightingale? What effect does the nightingale’s song have on the speaker?
Ans. Hearing the song of the nightingale, the speaker longs to flee the human world and join the world of the bird. He is happy for and with the nightingale and says that it is his desire to fade away forgetting the various troubles of human life. In the end, he tells the nightingale to fly away and he would follow on the ‘viewless wings of poesy’.
- How does the poet want to reach the world of the nightingale?
Ans. The first thought of the poet is to reach the bird’s state through alcohol, he longs for a ‘draught of vintage’ to transport him out of himself. But after his meditation in the third stanza, he rejects the idea of being charioted by Bacchus and chooses instead to embrace, for the first time, the ‘viewless wings of Poesy’.
- How does the poet go about in the world of the nightingale and what does the ecstatic music encourage him to do?
Ans. It is through the rapture of poetic inspiration which matches the creative rapture of the nightingale’s music that lets the speaker imagine himself with the bird in the darkened forest. The ecstatic music even encourages the speaker tom embrace the idea of dying, of painlessly succumbing to death while enraptured in the nightingale’s music and never experiencing any pain of disappointment.
- Is there any personal strain evident in the poem?
Ans. Keats” Ode to a Nightingale has been universally accepted as a remarkable lyric on persona passion. Written some time after his brother’s Tom’s death of consumption in 1 December 1818, the poem finds the poet uneasy with death: “where youth grows pale and spectre-thin and dies”. More importantly, one may also note an element of bitterness and self pity, for at that time, Keats was very much plagued by harsh criticism of his poetry.
- Why does the poet say “my heart aches”?
Ans. The heart of the poetic persona in ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ aches on listening to the song of the nightingale. He does not envy the bird and is “too happy” which creates an acute sensation of pain leading to heart ache.
- What is meant by ‘blushful Hippocrene”?
Ans. As the poetic persona in ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ wants to the reach the world of the nightingale, he decides to recourse to wine. Hippocrene is the name of a fountain on Mount Helicon in Boeotia which is scared to the Muses and whose waters were believed to bring about poetic inspiration. Comparing the red wine with the water of the fountain, Keats wants a drink so as to be divinely inspired.
- Why does the poet want to “fade away”?
Ans. The poet explains his desire to fade away, saying that he would like to forget the troubles the nightingale has never known: “the weariness, the fever, and the fret” of human life, with its consciousness that everything is mortal and nothing lasts.
- Who is Bacchus and why does Keats refer to him?
Ans. Using Roman mythology, Keats refers to the Bacchus, the Roman God of Wine who is traditionally shown in a chariot drawn by leopards. Previously the poet had expressed his wish to fly away with the nightingale but now he makes it clear that it would without the influence of alcohol-he would take recourse to poetry.
- Describe the forest glade of the nightingale as viewed by the poet.
Ans. After he is with the nightingale, Keats describes the forest glade. It is a place where even the moonlight is hidden by the trees, except for the light that breaks through when the breezes blow the branches. He cannot see the flowers in the glade but can guess “in embalmed darkness” the presence of white hawthorne, eglantine, violets and the musk rose.
- Who has been ‘half in love’ with Death?
Ans. While in the world of the nightingale, the poet says that he has often been half in love with the idea of dying and called Death soft names in many rhymes. And now, surrounded by the song of the nightingale, the idea seems richer than ever.
- When is the ideal time to die for the poet?
Ans. The poet tells the nightingale that many a time has been in love with the concept of death, and now, when he was immersed in the song of the nightingale, the idea of death seems very appropriate. It seems richer than ever now to die, he longs to “cease upon the midnight with no pain” while the nightingale pours its soul ecstatically forth.
- Why would the poet have ‘ears in vain’?
Ans. According to the poetic person in ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, now when the nightingale is pouring forth its soul ecstatically, it is the best moment to die. And even if he were to die, the nightingale would continue to sing and then he would have ears in vain as he would no longer be able to hear its song.
- Why does the poet call the nightingale “immortal bird”?
Ans. In ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, Keats or the poetic persona tells the nightingale that it is immortal, that it is not born for death. He says that the voice he hears singing has always been heard, by ancient emperors and clowns and even by the homesick Ruth..
- Who is Ruth and why is she referred to here?
Ans. Ruth is the name of the main character in the ‘Book of Ruth’ from the New Testament. She was a woman of Moab who was married to an Israelite. After her husband’s death, she immigrated with her mother-in-law Naomi to Judah and used to glean in the barley fields of Boaz. The poet refers to her to stress on the immortality of the nightingale – even she, while working in the field, heard the song of the nightingale and was reminded of her motherland.
- What is the significance of the word ‘forlorn’?
Ans. At the beginning of the eighth stanza of ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, the word ‘forlorn’ tolls like a bell to restore the speaker from his preoccupation with the nightingale ad back into himself. It is only after this that the nightingale flies away.
- Explain: “a vision, or a waking dream”.
Ans. The word ‘forlorn’ is like bell and draws the poet back into himself. As the nightingale flies far away from him, he laments that his imagination has failed him and says that he can no longer recall whether the nightingale’s music was a vision a waking dream. Now that the music is gone, the speaker cannot recall whether he himself is awake or asleep.
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