Form: eight 10-line stanzas.
Meter: iambic pentameter (eighth line trimeter).
Rhyme scheme: ababcdecde.
1. In one of his letters Keats exclaimed, "O for a Life of Sensation rather than of Thought!" What is wrong with the speaker's sensations in this poem? If that "draught of vintage" produces only a false ecstasy, what is left for the speaker at the end of the poem?
2. Of the works we are studying, this ode contains probably the best examples of Keats's famous sonority. According to a friend (Benjamin Bailey), Keats thought that vowels should be managed so as not to clash with one another lest they mar the melody and yet varied, like differing notes of music, to prevent monotony. Where in the poem can you find evidence to support this theory? Do you think it constitutes a valid poetic principle, or does it lead (as some critics have suggested) to an overconcern for the musicality of the line at the expense of meaning? In other words, is there less in this poem than meets the ear?
3. How well integrated are the stanzas on wine and on suffering? Do you find them necessary to the experience of the poem?
4. The nightingale seems to represent something for the poet. Just what sort of symbol is it? What does it stand for?
Incorporated in the Victorian Web July 2000