Shelleys talks of suicide, by hemlock (2),
Shelleys To a Skylark is very structured, and rhythmical, having the end of a line rhyming with the second line after it, for example heart (4) and art (5). This happens on every stanza, with the majority of the time there is two sets of these rhyming pairs. This is not the stereotypical romantic poem, full of chaos, and disorder as there is a lot of order and structure in this poem, enabling rhyme and melody (35) to shine though. Keats Ode to a Nightingale has a first impression of more length, and more chaos, but it also has an underlying sense of order, with most lines numbering ten syllables.
Shelley responds to bird song very positively to begin with, starting with a Hail (1), almost a salute, the blithe spirit (1), the joyous spirit. It is as if it is something angelic, which is confirmed when Shelley remarks that a bird thou never wert (2). The angelic idea is corroborated when he says that the bird is from heaven (3), this also showing a sense of awe towards the bird and its song. In comparison Keats seems very gothic and negative in feeling, full of his own self pity.
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He begins with the negative statement of how his heart aches (1), which could be generally his life not just towards the poem and the bird as he was surrounded by death, being a medical student and with his mother dead, and his brother recently dead, despite Keats attempts. He talks of suicide, by hemlock (2), poison, and of the after-life, lethwards had sunk (4). He perhaps wants to follow his bother to death, and is feeling quite depressed. He has perhaps taken the stance of jealousy towards the bird and its song, as Keats suggests that it is possible to be too happy in thine own happiness (6), proposing that the bird is smug.This is all a sharp contrast to Shelleys To a Skylark, which carries on with the admiration, describing the birds graceful flight, ever higher (6), and using similes to help describe it. Shelley says that the bird springest (7) from the earth like a cloud of fire (8), which is a very odd simile as fire could suggest destruction , not peace, but it could also be interpreted as an angelic reference as the Holy Ghost, a spirit, is meant to have eternal light, or eternal fire.
Keats also uses odd similes or descriptions. When he wishes for a draught of vintage! (11). It is a very odd description as vintage is usually sipped and appreciated slowly, not guzzled as fast as possible. If this line was read into very deeply you could suggest that its is Keats philosophy of life, to cram as many new sensations and as many experiences into your life as possible because you never know when you are going to die. Keats died at the age of 24 from TB, and I dont know whether he knew when writing this poem that he had it, but even if he didnt know then, it could be because both his mother and his brother had died early and that he thought that they hadnt lived life to the full. Keats may be suggesting that you havent got time in life to sip, you must live it to the full, drinking in the sensations of life. This is similar to a Nightingale, which , being a bird, does not live as long as humans, but enjoys every minute of it, yet it manages to become immortal (61) with its songs of beauty immortalised in every ones hearts, from emperor (64) to clown (64).
Another brilliant description by Keats is again about drink. With beaded bubbles winking at the brim (17), a brilliant description, but as he moves on we see that the references to alcohol have a meaning. The result for him, if he does drink is an escape from reality, so that the world is unseen (19), and his awareness will fade away (20).
Keats obviously wants to Fade, far away (21), perhaps a hint at suicide, which is one avenue of escape, or just the gradual ageing of the mortal. He goes on to talk of mortality, what thou amongst the leaves has never known, all earthly worries that only men know about, from which birds, all fauna, are free from. Keats is particualrly depressing when he states that to think is to be full of sorrow (27), and continues with his list of woes, with beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, that beauty fades with age. Keats seems very preoccupied with mortality, as you can see, and this must be a response to the immortal bird (61) and its song. Its almost as if he feels trapped in his own mortality.Bibliography: