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Escape in Ode to a Nightingale and La Belle Dans sans Merci

Escape in Ode to a Nightingale and La Belle Dans sans Merci

The two poems, Ode to a Nightingale and La Belle Dans sans Merci, clearly portray Keats’ treatment of the idea of escape. Both poems construct vivid illusions but insist on their desolating failure.

In Ode to a Nightingale it is interesting that Keats chooses to use the nightingale as the main vehicle for his idea of escape. It is through the comparisons to the nightingale’s life that all other forms of escape become apparent in this work.

In the opening lines of the first stanza, one is introduced to the escapism that may come through alcohol and drugs. But I think what one is witnessing here is the fantasy of escape rather than escapism itself.

“My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,”

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains..”

However, the actual subject that Keats uses for the idea of escape is the nightingale. The nightingale has no experience of ‘human life’ and is all the better for it. At this point, the commonly held notion that one has to have known sadness to appreciate what happiness really is falls by the wayside, although one knows very little about a bird’s perception. Hence, Keats’ explanation of his envy:

“Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,

But being too happy in thine happiness,-”

“..happy lot..” implies a certain contentment that fate has dealt out, whereas the nightingale appears to have something unique about its life as it is enshrouded with happiness. One feels that there is something so simplistic about it all. I think this is borne out by the following quotation:

“Singest of summer in full-throated ease.”

I think “ease” is the key word here. It identifies with the total freedom from pa…

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…isses but the mouth is gaping instead, because he is shocked at the situation which is loveless. It is also interesting that Keats has made this into the scene of a battleground and the knight has lost badly.

I think it is interesting how the last stanza answers the first stanza’s question, and yet is almost the same in its use of words. Here, I think that Keats is showing that nothing has changed. The poem is static, and one ends how one begins. Thus, escapism was not worth very much perhaps.

Works Cited

Keats, John. “Ode to a Nightingale.” The Norton Anthology World Masterpieces: the Western Tradition. Vol. 2. Ed. Sarah Lawall, Maynard Mack. 500th Fifth Avenue, NY: W. W. Norton

Comparing Philosophies of Donne’s To His Mistress and Herrick’s Corrina Going A-Maying

Comparing Philosophies of Donne’s To His Mistress and Herrick’s Corrina Going A-Maying

The seventeenth century in England produced two varying schools of poetic philosophy which included the metaphysical and the cavalier. While the metaphysical poets, comprised of the artists who followed John Donne’s use of the metaphysical conceit, tended to reinforce the traditional forms of love and devotion, the cavalier poets, led by Ben Johnson, intellectualized the themes of their poetry. Both metaphysical and cavalier poets such as John Donne and Robert Herrick experimented with poetry of seduction, dramatic verse from a male lover attempting to persuade his beloved. Although both poets attempt to incite their mistresses, the methods of persuasion in Donne’s “To His Mistress Going to Bed” and Herrick’s “Corrina’s Going A-Maying” differ in accordance with their different schools of poetic thought. Whereas Donne employs a lustful attitude, derogatory diction, and metaphysical conceits to harshly command sexual activity; Herrick utilizes a more intellectual and sensitive argument with his religious undertones, persuasive and playful diction, and personification of nature.

The variation between metaphysical and cavalier poetry can be seen through differences in Donne’s and Herrick’s attitudes towards their mistresses represented by varying structure, diction, imagery, and religious language. Although both “To His Mistress Going to Bed” and “Corrina’s Going A-Maying” contain many imperative sentences, their structural differences reflect Donne’s feeling of superiority in spite of Herrick’s admiration for his mistress. Donne’s simple aabb rhyme scheme indicates his feeling that his mistress either cannot understand or does not des…

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…gently rebuking Corrina for her inactivity.

Although both Donne and Herrick employ imperative structures, sensual imagery, religious language and allusions to persuade their respective mistresses, Donne’s superiority complex debases his mistress while Herrick’s reverent attitude cajoles. Donne cares very little about his mistress evidenced by the lack of her name throughout the poem which resembles an urgent appeal. Conversely, Herrick’s five stanzas and elaborate metrical structure indicate a planned appeal. Donne’s lustful and solely physical approach contrasts sharply with Herrick’s intellectual ploy in a complimenting and gently rebuking manner. The variance in the approaches of the poets is characteristic of their respective schools of poetic thought and illustrates the differences in approaches to poems of seduction by the metaphysical and cavalier writers.

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