Summary & Analysis of “Ode on Melancholy” by John Keats

Text of the Poem | Ode on Melancholy

No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist

Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;

Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss’d

By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;

Make not your rosary of yew-berries,

Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be

Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl

A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries;

For shade to shade will come too drowsily,

And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.


But when the melancholy fit shall fall

Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,

That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,

And hides the green hill in an April shroud;

Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,

Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,

Or on the wealth of globed peonies;

Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,

Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,

And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.


She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;

And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips

Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,

Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:

Ay, in the very temple of Delight

Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,

Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue

Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;

His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might,

And be among her cloudy trophies hung.


In this article, you will learn about introduction and summary of Ode on Melancholy, major themes in the poem, and different literary devices used in Ode on Melancholy.

Introduction to the Poem:

Ode on melancholy was composed and 1819 along with other five great odes of John Keats, a British-English romantic poet. The previous odes were about the nightingale, autumn, Grecian Urn, and goddess psyche. In this ode, Keats addresses the sadness, mood, and dark thoughts of human beings.

Summary Ode on Melancholy:

The poem started with the lines in which Keats abandon to go towards the Lethe River even if you are sad. The Poisonous water of the Lethe River will not give you satisfaction even after erasing your memory. It would help if you did not pluck Wolf’s bane to making poisonous wine to reduce your pain. Your forehead might become pale of sickness and sadness but don’t allow the nightshade to overcome your body. Even if the wine of the underworld queen is looking attractive and you want to drink it, don’t allow yourself to show your weakness that you are miserable and depressed.

Don’t let the yew-berries surround your neck and let yourself die like a beetle and death moth even if you are weak. These death symbols might look like freedom from this world’s endless pain, but this is not the reality. Your sadness will not end if you join the company of an owl. Instead, it will make you more miserable. These things can only draw more shadows on you. John Keats’ ode on melancholy surrounds the thoughts of miseries and that you will drown your soul in the sorrows of this world only.

Whenever you feel sorrow or emotional pain like a thunderstorm that makes flowers drowned with the tears of the weeping sky, try to lower your burden of grief with the morning rose, freshen your thoughts, and look at the rainbow that spread in the sky. If your beloved one is angry with you, hold her rose like smooth and soft hands and let her be furious. Just look at her deep ocean-like eyes as melancholy is a part of beauty. If her words hurt you, her eyes will give you comfort.

Nothing lasts forever; everything like beauty, sorrow, happiness has to end. These things are always ready to say goodbye as melancholy is a part of the joy, and happiness is incomplete. Indeed melancholy is a part of life’s good things like a queen in the temple but can only be seen with those eyes which can see the absolute joy. Melancholy never forgets those who taste its low power.

Various Themes in Ode on Melancholy:

Awareness of Reaching Extreme Position:

When you are sad, don’t think about more sorrows and ending your life by drinking water of Lethe River or with Wolf’s bane. By sitting in the company of nightshade, you cannot compensate yourself or can’t satisfy your sorrow; it can only reach its extreme position. The beetle, death moth, and downy owl are just there to increase your miseries. These things might look the same as just you are feeling, but they cannot satisfy your soul. Do not encourage your sorrows to take over your faith.

Power of Nature:

Miseries, sorrows, and pain are part of life; you should know how to deal with them. Keats ode to melancholy suggests some ideas to enjoy the moments when you get hit by the clouds of melancholy. He thinks that sitting in the company of nature, the rainbow, morning rose, and globed peonies can help you recover. Natural beauty got the power to give back your energy when you are down or feel alone.

Beauty Must Die:

Nothing is forever, humans are mortal, and they should accept this reality as soon as possible. Death is so close to us, and we are not aware of that. Enjoy this moment even if you are in pain, sit in silence to observe the natural beauty which can last forever. Melancholy does not mean you should always mourn and cry over the end of your life. Instead, try to look at the positive side; you’ve got time and celebrate your presence. When you become aware of your mortality, you will value every moment of your life.

Mourning Heart of Beloved One:

When your beloved one is angry, Keats suggests that you should hold her hand and look into her eyes. It would help if you allowed her to express her anger and, in the meantime, look into her deep ocean-like eyes. Satisfy the mourning heart of your beloved one.

Literary Devices used in Ode on Melancholy:

Symbolism in Ode on Melancholy:

The word, which is different from its literal meanings, is termed symbolism. In Ode on Melancholy, the wolf’s bane, Lethe River water, the ruby grape of Proserpine are symbolized as death. Rainbow, globed peonies, morning flowers are represented as joy which can bring you back towards life after experiencing sorrows and miseries.

Personification in the Poem:

When a non-living thing is given the characteristics of a human being, it is referred to as personification. The nightshade is shown the human quality of forehead kiss in the three and 4th lines of the first stanza. In the 26th line, for melancholy, personification is also used.

Use of Assonance:

Assonance means the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example:

  • Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose. ( /o/ vowel sound in this line is representing assonance)
  • Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl (/O/ vowel sound is showing assonance)
  • Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave ( /a/ vowel sound)

Use of Consonance:

Consonance means the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example:

  • His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might. (/t/ consonant sound is representing consonance in this line of ode on melancholy)
  • Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue (/s/ sound is showing consonance)