Perhaps this poem is an omen that Keats knew that he would die young. Or perhaps, this is simply a worry of all people who don’t want to go before they feel their work is finished. The speaker, presuming Keats himself, portrays his love for books, filled with “charactery,” by likening them to garners that hold “full ripened grain.” This is an agricultural reference which is ironic because most agricultural images are not usually associated with books. Nevertheless, Keats does not focus on the opposition here but instead likens it in its highest esteem. Finally, when the speaker shares his fears of ceasing to be this does not necessarily mean death. It appears in the last lines “and think/Till love and fame to nothingness do sink” that he is also speaking about his legacy.
Just like the other odes, Keats uses personification extensively throughout the poem. This technique appears to enrich the poem’s romantic, or perhaps dramatic, nature. In the second stanza, melancholy is first mentioned directly but it begins with a small letter (“But when the melancholy fit shall fall”). The reader is presented with only an inkling of this feeling, “sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud.” However, when it is directly referenced again in the last stanza, melancholy has grown in power. As a result, it is featured with a capital letter (“Veiled Melancholy has her sovran shrine”).
This beautiful poem plays with concepts of opposites throughout. In the beginning, Keats writes that the speaker “heart aches” yet he feels “drowsy numbness” and the bird sings of summer “in full-throated ease.” Aches and numbness and full-throated and ease are just a couple of examples of the opposites or the imagery of extremes that Keats incorporates into the poem. Furthermore, life and death seem to constantly be at a struggle. In the seventh stanza Keats even points out that the nightingale was “not born for death, immortal bird!” Perhaps this poem focuses so much on the extremes because the highs that Keats is trying to portray for his readers, that the highs of his speaker’s love for this nightingale, can only be achieved or understood despite or because their accompanying lows.
This poem remind me a little of meta-fiction/meta-literature in which the author writes about the process of writing.“I wandered in a forest thoughtlessly,/And, on the sudden, fainting with surprise” The poem is written in first person and the speaker metaphorically discusses the process of coming up with an idea. The ode is in a praise to the speaker’s psyche which Keats personifies with the capital letter and writes “The winged Psyche with awakened eyes.” Actually, upon doing further research into this poem it seems like it was actually written to the goddess Psyche. Unlike other gods, however, she has no “altar heaped with flowers” or temples. As an ode, the poem may also serve as a metaphorical temple or altar heaped with flowers and perhaps as one that will withstand the test of time much better than physical objects.
This poem begins with the exclamation in which the speaker appears enamoured with the “steadfast” “art” that the “Bright Start” exudes. Bright Star can be interpreted both literally (as an actual star) and metaphorically (as a personification of a woman). I am particularly taken the jealousy that appears in the speaker’s voice. To me, it seems like the speaker (presuming Keats himself) is almost envious of the star in that it can exude art continuously (“steadfastly”) while he as a poet/writer cannot. After reading “Like Nature’s patient sleepless eremite,” I looked up the word “eremite” and found that it means a hermit or a religious recluse. According to dictionary.com, the word also means “lonely, solitary, desolate” and originally derives from Latin and Greek and means “living in the desert.” In context, its meaning is an interesting juxtaposition with the following line that uses imagery that is the opposite of the desert, namely “moving waters.”