'Ode to a Nightingale'

John Keats (1795-1821) composed this poem one morning in early May 1819, when he was still mourning the death of his brother Tom. The world of nature features prominently in Romantic verse, because the poets believed in its healing, restorative qualities and its ability to help people transcend their restricted circumstances. Here Keats reflects upon a nightingale’s spontaneous, exuberant singing. Its ecstatic outpouring is alluring, offering relief from stress, pain and suffering. The power of the imagination can facilitate temporary escape from problems; ultimately, however, the speaker accepts the limitations of mortality. Pleasures are fleeting; change and decay are inevitable.

Manuscript of 'Ode to a Nightingale' by John Keats

Manuscript of 'Ode to a Nightingale' by John Keats

View images from this item  (4)

Usage terms: : Public Domain

Related articles

The Romantics

Article by:
Stephanie Forward

Dr Stephanie Forward explains the key ideas and influences of Romanticism, and considers their place in the work of writers including Wordsworth, Blake, P B Shelley and Keats.

John Keats and ‘negative capability’

Article by:
Stephen Hebron

Stephen Hebron explores Keats’s understanding of negative capability, a concept which prizes intuition and uncertainty above reason and knowledge.

John Keats, poet-physician

Article by:
Sharon Ruston
Romanticism, Technology and science

Keats trained as an apothecary and a surgeon before deciding to dedicate himself to poetry. Professor Sharon Ruston considers how his medical background influenced his writing.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

'A Red, Red Rose'

Created by: Robert Burns

A poem by Robert Burns (1759-1796). Towards the end of his short life, Burns contributed many songs to James ...

*Childe Harold's Pilgrimage*

Created by: Lord Byron

A poem in Spenserian stanzas by Lord Byron (1788-1824), Cantos I and II appeared in 1812, Canto III in 1816 and ...

'Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802'

Created by: William Wordsworth

‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802’ is a sonnet by William Wordsworth (1770-1850) ...

*Don Juan*

Created by: Lord Byron

Lord Byron’s (1788-1824) entertaining mock-epic version of the famous Don Juan legend (1819-24) proved highly ...