Summary and Analysis of “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats

Text to the Poem | Ode to a Nightingale

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?


Introduction to an Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats

The Ode to a nightingale is one of the great Ode of Romantic poets. John Keats’ ode to a nightingale is comprised of 8 stanzas. It was composed in just one day in May 1819 and published in July 1819 in “the Annals of the Fine Arts,” a quarterly magazine. Keats was inspired by a nightingale whose nest was built near the house of Brown, which they shared in spring. One morning, Keats sat under a palm tree and wrote this ode when he heard beautiful singing of a nightingale. Ode to a nightingale’s tone is melancholy surrounding between mortal and immortal poetic imagination to fly from the world of miseries. It was also published in a volume along with Lamia in 1820.

What is an Ode in Literature?

An ode is a type of lyric poem, which means that it expresses thoughts and feelings. These feelings are often intense and deeply personal. This particular poem comes from the romantic tradition.It certainly does not mean flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s Day or anything to do with romantic love at all but rather a set of core beliefs surrounding the relationship between the poet and the whole world around him.

Background to the Ode

This poem was written in the 19th century when John Keats lived with his friend Brown in the same house. Ode to nightingale focuses on death because Keats’s mother Francis Jennies and his younger brother Tom died of tuberculosis. He was also diagnosed with tuberculosis as it was an incurable disease at that time. When John Keats found the secret of mortality, he started to explore nature more deeply. This poem was also a romantic poem when John Keats got tuberculosis (Fanny Brownie, his beloved one) left him. That’s why we found loneliness, misery, and sorrow in this poem.

Introduction to Main Characters

The only characters are the speaker and the nightingale. The bird receives human traits in the poem and represents nature and death. While standing in the dark forest, he creates an imaginary link of nightingale with death, beauty, human suffering, and spirit.

Summary of Ode to a Nightingale

The poem describes the speaker’s sentiments when standing in the dark woodland. When he hears the beautiful singing of the nightingale bird, he feels shins of sorrow in his ears. It prompts the speaker to reflect profoundly and meanderingly on time, mortality, nature, beauty, and human suffering. He appears to be leaving the physical world and entering a new realm of imagination. He feels numb from the bird’s song as if he’s taken some drugs. In the beginning, the music comforts him. He even thinks that poetry will metaphorically bring the speaker closer to the nightingale. He wishes for a draught of vintage to accompany him and the nightingale into a fantasy world. Where, like the nightingale, he can become ignorant of all the sufferings of the real world. The speaker is not sure if the entire incident was a “vision” or a “waking dream.”

Themes of Poem Ode to a Nightingale

The main themes of Ode to a nightingale are death, mortality, immortality, nature, human suffering, and poetic imaginations. According to him, death is the end of all people, which is unavoidable, is the poem’s central theme. The theme of mortality in Ode to a nightingaleis linked with immortality as man is mortal. If he wants the best survival, then nature’s lap is the best place to live. Man always suffers on this earth, and the poet wants to be free from all miseries, just like the nightingale.

Literary Devices in Ode to a Nightingale

Poets use literary devices to convey their thoughts, ideas, emotions, and beliefs more clearly to the reader. In Ode to a nightingale, Keats also uses literary devices like are imagery, personification, and others to make the text appealing.


Ode to a nightingale contains imagery in the form of different terms like embalmed, Lethe, darkness, requiem, plaintive anthem, and tolling bell.

The apostrophe

The phrase or stanza in which the poet addresses the other person or things absent is considered an apostrophe. For example, in the first stanza speaker addresses the nightingale who is not present.He can listen to her beautiful voice at that time.


Personification term is used in the third stanza when a non-human thing nightingale is given human qualities. “Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes” and “The Queen moon is on her throne” are the two examples of personification in the poem.


Anaphora is used for the sentences that use the same initial word or phrase in a sequence—the word “Where” is repeatedly used in the poem.


There are many things which are compared, like poetry is compared to bird in line 33. Warm south and beaker are compared in the 15th line, and fancy is compared with deceiving elf.

Ode to a Nightingale Rhyme Scheme and Structure

Ode to a nightingale rhyme scheme is ababcdecode primarily used in all modes of that time. The poem contains eight separate stanzas, each of which is ten lines. And the meter of each stanza is an iambic pentameter except for the 8th. The eighth line is written in iambic with too many prefixes.As a result, there are only six syllables per line rather than ten.

What is the Purpose of Ode to a Nightingale?

Ode to a nightingale presents the conflict between pain and joy, life and death, mortality and immortality, andactual and vision. The main thing which John Keats conveys to the readers is that humans are mortal.The only way they can find immortality is to observe nature. In this poem, he sat in a dark forest and experience a new world that you can never see in the crowd.Only soul can bless you the immortality, and you can experience great things. Life is full of miseries, but you can escape from them when you sit quietly to observe other creatures of nature.