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Symbolism of the poems Essay (1688 words)

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    Several motifs used by Keats and Shelley enhance the symbolism of the poems. The poets use several motifs to their command and therefore succeed in revealing their innermost thoughts to the readers. For instance, in ‘Ode On A Grecian Urn,” the urn is symbolic to the time which forever stays stagnant. Keats wants to compare the stillness in the world of art to his life. Since he is living on borrowed time, Keats is aware that every moment of his life counts. However since he knows that has a “fast-fading” life he pictures the vase not only as a piece of art but also as his idol.

    In a way Keats wants to imitate the stillness in the vase because the pictures of the two lovers “cannot fade” away. The nightingale is a symbol of freedom and ancestral royalty at the same time. Keats has presented the nightingale to his readers in a very favourable light. This is because according to Keats, the bird had served royalty and has forever existed. He sees the nightingale as an image of infinity. In a way, Keats pines to be in place of the bird because it expresses itself in an extremely graceful and melodious way. To Keats, the season of autumn is also figurative as it is like an ideal dream.

    Keats has depicted autumn as a season which is forever “conspiring” about “how to load and bless” life. We notice that it is not really nature that needs the blessings of autumn but Keats’ own life. The fruits which have been filled with a “ripeness to the core,” pose a paradox to Keats’ life which is supposed to be unfruitful and unproductive. Even the west wind used in Shelley’s poem symbolizes the winds of change. Since Shelley has the enthusiasm to change the world, he summons the autumn wind to help him being over this change.

    Shelley wants to recognize himself as the master of the seasons. He is like a lion tamer who wants the “ferocious” winds to respond to his command. To Shelley the skylark is symbolic to freedom and symphony. In the poem, Shelley marvels the grace and elegance of the skylark. According to Shelley, the skylark “showers a rain of melody. ” The skylark can be compared to the bird in Shelley’s own mind which wants to venture to unseen areas and which wants to explore the different highs and lows of human nature.

    The skylark can also be compared to a symbol of life itself, which, if taken positively and with the right attitude is “like a star of heaven. ” Thus to Shelley, the skylark is not only a motif of life but also a symbol of unexplored lands and unventured areas. The vivid use of imagery throughout the different poems attracts the reader’s interest and denotes the writers’ creativity. All of the poems are packed with imagery which not only shows their uniqueness but also the intensity and sophistication in the writers. Keats has used the imagery of intoxication to add a ‘dreamy’ effect to his poems.

    Keats refers to the “fume of poppies” in ‘To Autumn’ and to the “hemlock” and the “draught of vintage” in ‘Ode To A Nightingale. ‘ This may suggest the clouded mind of a person drunk with his own thoughts. Also, it may signify the clouded mind of a patient suffering from tuberculosis. Keats also may have used these symbols as they signify his ultimate intoxication that awaits him-namely death. Along with these, there is an imagery of disease and sickness all throughout in Keats’ poems. He depicts the lover on the urn as suffering from ” a burning forehead and a parching tongue.

    ” This emphasizes Keats’ own position whilst suffering from his illness. Keats makes continual references to his sickness and sometimes the reader feels as though it is his wish to “leave the world unseen. ” On the other hand, Shelley has used a number of positive images to add an aura of liveliness to his poems. He continuously uses the aspect of colour to add enthusiasm to his poetry. Shelley has used captivating images of the skylark soaring in the “golden lightning of the sunken sun,” and has also depicted the “pale purple” sky melting around the skylark’s flight.

    These colours pose a sharp contrast as compared to the pale colours of yellow used by Keats to describe his ailment. Colours have also been used by Shelley to describe the different shades of autumn. Autumn has been portrayed as a picturesque scenario filled with “yellow, and black, and pale and hectic red. ” We notice the vivid descriptions provided by Shelley to describe the “fruitfulness” of autumn. Linguistic details added by the poets make them more interesting to read as well as make the readers take notice of their ingenious writing skills.

    Both, Shelley and Keats have used alliteration to their advantage. Shelley calls upon the “wild west wind” to spread his ideas of change. This alliteration emphasizes the ferocity of the west wind and gives the wind an identity of being harsh. We also see that the alliterative phrase “hear O hear” is repeated all throughout the poem. These words demonstrate Shelley’s plea to the west wind to lift him as “a wave, a leaf, a cloud. ” Alliteration is also used by Keats in his poem “Ode To A Nightingale,” to highlight his grief.

    The “self-same song” of the nightingale shows that it has existed for generations and the same harmonious song has even found a way to “the sad heart of Ruth. ” Keats uses Ruth as the typical icon of moaning. She is not only a symbol in his poems but also a metaphor. Keats compares himself to the moaning heart of Ruth and suggests that since the nightingale has cured the sadness of Ruth with its songs, it may also be able to relieve Keats of his misery. Keats has also used an image of “Bacchus and his pards” as a metaphor of intoxication.

    Since Bacchus is the Roman God of wine Keats in a way is requesting him to assuage his own anguished soul by giving him the intoxication to forget his woes. Both Keats and Shelley use personification to develop the presence of nature and give it some attributes. Keats personifies the season of autumn which is the “close-bosom friend of the maturing Sun. ” he has sketched a picture of autumn in the minds of the reader and by looking at the season “the picture of the mind revives again. ” (Tintern Abbey-William Wordsworth.)

    In contrast to Keats, Shelley represents the west wind as having violent qualities. According to Shelley, autumn has a “wild spirit. ” The reason for the contrastsin the poets’ opinions about autumn may be caused due to their attitudes of human nature itself. Keats possesses mellowness in his character as compared to Shelley who is greatly affected by the world and is passionate to change it. Shelley has also drawn up a similarity between the skylark and “a cloud of fire. ” He compares the skylark to fire because just like himself, even the skylark has a fiery keenness to fill the world with optimism.

    Both the poets use irregular end rhymes in the poems to give it a continuous tone and flow. In addition to the rhymes, Keats also uses a variety of onomatopaeic sounds, in particular the ‘O’ sounds. In ‘Ode To A Nightingale’ he combines the rhyming words “known and “groan” along with the word “sorrow. ” These words make it seem as though life for Keats is a recurrent, monotonous drone. Even Shelly uses onamatopaeia to summon the wind. He says the words “O wind” as if he worships and gives it a god-like status.

    Keats also uses the techniques of pathetic fallacy to give his poems an added dimension of pain. He tries to make nature sympathise with his “woes” by talking to it as if it were a friend. This can clearly be seen in the poem ‘Ode To A Nightingale’ where he is almost envious of the nightingale’s position and wants to “fly” into its world. The poets also touch upon various sense impressions. The west wind in Shelley’s poem is “wild” and harsh, appealing to the sense of touch. Shelley inwardly tells the readers that the west winds can either damage with its roughness or soothe with its nursing spirit.

    Keats also notices the bare beauty in the colours of autumn and personifies it as a maiden whose “hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind. ” This alliterative phrase brings out the gentleness of autumn and also reveals that Keats has blended the multiple techniques of personification, alliteration as well as the sense of sight. In conclusion, these poems are interwoven with the deepest human thoughts. Even though they have been written with subtlety they convey the thoughts, the views of life and the perspectives of the poets. In addition they also teach us to adore and admire God’s creative genius and artistry.

    Through the poems we learn that in life there are many things that we ignore and even take for granted. Therefore these poems give the message that we have to start taking notice of things and start valuing all we have before it starts slipping. Even though these poems have been written way back in the eighteenth century, they still hold a lot of relevance in today’s age. They pose a paradox for the older generation who worshipped and noticed every shade of nature against the newer and more unconventional times where nature is just another object.

    The nature, which has inspired millions of romantics, poets, art-lovers and even writers, is now widely subject to devastation from all areas such as widespread air pollution, the greenhouse effect and the overall to destruction of the ecology. Thus the poems instill in us a sense of responsibility not only towards nature but every creation of God. The two poets reach out to different depths of the human mind and give us some eternal and timeless messages of life and its various manifestations. “Everything in life is speaking in spite of its apparent silence. ” (Hazrat Inayat Khan).

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