Poems Copy

THE ODES (published 1819)


Romanticism in Keats’ poems

  • Pure Romantic poetry: the sole purpose of his poetry is aesthetical. His poems are not written with a social or moral purpose, they contain no advice or moral judgement. Their single purpose is to explore imagination and language.
  • Poetry is a quest for beauty;
  • Keats’ poetry draws inspiration from Greek and Medieval literature;
  • Explored poetry through a fixed poetic form: the ode, the ballad.

The Odes:

  • “Ode on Melancholy”
  • “Ode to the West Wind”
  • “Ode on a Grecian Urn”
  • “Ode to a Nightingale”
  • “Ode to Psyche”
  • “To Autumn”


Genre: ode


  • Style: 10-line stanzas, iambic pentameter. The stanzas follow the same pattern:
    • opening sequence- 4 lines (ABAB rhyme structure)
    • 6-line sequence with a variable rhyme scheme
  • Sensory language;
  • Idealistic concern for beauty and truth;
  • Expressive agony in the face of death;
  • Share the same themes, images, and approaches, but are not intended to stand together as a single work of art;
  • Exhibit psychological development.


  • The beauty of nature;
  • Relation between imagination and creativity;
  • Passion;
  • Beauty;
  • Suffering;
  • Time;
  • The transience of human life.


“Ode on Indolence”

  • Written in the spring of 1819.
  • Portrays the poet’s first struggle with issues raised in other odes.
  • Theme: the anguish of mortality as opposed to the permanence of art (the opposition is specific to Romanticism). The numbness of a meditative state, “indolence” is preferable to the struggle which love, ambition, and poetry bring along.

“Ode to Psyche”

  • A large number of irregularities and long rhyme schemes show that the text is written spontaneously.
  • Inspired by the Greek myth of Psyche;
  • Theme: the delights of creative imagination. The poet dedicates himself to Psyche and composes a song to love and the creative imagination. The speaker is preoccupied with creativity, but with an imagination only directed towards internal ends.

“Ode to a Nightingale”

  • Theme: the eternity of art (in its fluid, musical form) vs the mortality of the human life. Art is symbolized by the nightingale’s song, a form of outward expression that translates the product of imagination into the outside world.
  • Attributes of art:
    • Eternal
    • Inspired by tradition;
    • Inspired by nature;
    • Fluid and everchanging;
    • Immortal.

“Ode on a Grecian Urn”

Theme: the eternity of art (in its static, structural form). Art exists outside time, like the Grecian Urn, a paradox in itself, as it represents figures that are both free from time and also frozen in time.

Attributes of art:

  • Exists outside temporal change;
  • Is a separate and self-contained world;
  • Can befriend man;
  • Can’t become mortal;
  • Contains both truth and beauty.

“Ode on Melancholy”

  • Logical, argumentative structure;
  • The only ode not written in the first person;
  • Theme: sadness (“melancholy”) and how to cope with it. The speaker explores the nature of transience and the connection between pleasure and pain.

“To Autumn”

  • The simplest of Keats’ odes, both in form and in descriptive surface;
  • Extremely suggestive, explorative, and rich in themes;
  • Theme: contemplation of autumnal nature. A plethora of secondary themes derive from it, all characteristic to the odes: temporality, mortality, change, the human condition, creation.


Structure: 10-line stanzas, iambic pentameter (inspired by the Greek ode). The stanzas follow the same pattern:

  • opening sequence- 4 lines (ABAB rhyme structure)
  • 6-line sequence with a variable rhyme scheme

Use of figurative speech;

Use of tropes

  • Simile

Example: “And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep

Steady thy laden head across a brook”

(Keats, “To Autumn”)

  • Metaphor

Example: “Thou foster-child of silence and slow time”

(Keats, “Ode to a Grecian Urn”)

  • Metonymy

Example: “O, for a draught of vintage!” (vintage = wine)

(Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale”)

  • Synecdoche

Example: the nightingale’s song is a synecdoche, the use of a part to represent the whole. It symbolises the totality of art.

(Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale”)

  • Assonance

Example: “Season of mellow mists and fruitfulness”

(Keats, “To Autumn”)