Keats' Poems and Letters

The Image of the Nightingale in Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale" and Hardy's "The Darkling Thrush"

John Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” and Thomas Hardy’s “The Darkling Thrush,” though written nearly a century apart, share many poetic elements that allow readers to effectively draw a surface parallel between the two poems. Though both of these poems have analogous stylistic elements, a similar solitary speaker in nature and an overall forlorn tone, it is the image of the nightingale in each poem which ultimately comes to symbolize vastly different ideals for each poet. While Keats’s nightingale is representative of the Romantic ideals of creative and imaginative power in which the speaker can connect/identify with to bring life to his solitary position, Hardy’s thrush serves to accentuate the speaker’s stark and lifeless world, and further alerts both speaker and readers of the incapability of any connection to it that defines Keats’s “Ode.” Through the symbol of the nightingale representing such different ideals in each poem, the poems serve to reflect the vast differences between the eras in which the poems were written. Where Keats’s “Ode” is largely representative of Romantic ideas of power and connection with nature, Hardy’s clearly marks the end of the Victorian period and the beginning of a new era in which nature and...

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