Keats' Nightingale: An Essay on Actuality and Imagination
A critical deconstruction and analysis concerning the elements of actuality and imagination in Keats' Nightingale.
If any of the poetry of the 19th century?s Early Romantics may be said to have produced a complete articulation of the ever-present literary struggle of actuality and imagination, John Keats? Ode to a Nightingale must emerge as a top candidate. Though expressing a heartfelt consumption with the transience of beauty, the Ode, nonetheless, communicates a great deal on the subject of ?the fact of life vs. the fancy of imagination?. Indeed, the two ideas can be seen as conjoined. Is not the fleeting nature of the imagination?s fancy akin to its own beauty?s transience and its departure not unlike the return to reality from a heightened state (or the sight of baseness following beauty)? To be sure, the subtlety of Keats? wording makes this second reading difficult, at best. Therein lies the crux of such an analysis as follows. But the boundaries of analysis should, at this point, be mentioned in all truthfulness. Any deconstruction cannot summarize the poem as it imparts far more than mere philosophical problems; if it did not, it would be more the textbook than the creative accomplishment of a human mind. However limited literary criticism might be, it can do much to suggest an alternate or many alternate meanings. Meanings which can be foreshadowed in even the shallowest of analyses.
For instance, the Ode itself is written in modified sonnet form, with a rhyme scheme reading ababcdecde. Each stanza begins with the simple quatrain (abab), followed by an Italian sestet (cdecde). In such a form, the assumption is that the theme would be introduced in the opening quatrain and deepened in the following sestet with the succeeding quatrains giving examples or indirect support of the main theme as the closing sestets follow in concert. The Ode, however, does not follow such a pattern. Keats treats...