Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Critical analysis of The Nightingale


The poem " The Nightingale"



“To the Nightingale” A Conversation Poem, April, 1798 by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


No cloud, no relique of the sunken day Distinguishes the West, no long thin slip Of sullen light, no obscure trembling hues. Come, we will rest on this old mossy bridge! You see the glimmer of the stream beneath, But hear no murmuring: it flows silently. O'er its soft bed of verdure. All is still. A balmy night! and though the stars be dim, Yet let us think upon the vernal showers That gladden the green earth, and we shall find A pleasure in the dimness of the stars. And hark! the Nightingale begins its song, 'Most musical, most melancholy' bird! A melancholy bird? Oh! idle thought! In Nature there is nothing melancholy. But some night-wandering man whose heart was pierced With the remembrance of a grievous wrong, Or slow distemper, or neglected love, (And so, poor wretch! filled all things with himself, And made all gentle sounds tell back the tale Of his own sorrow) he, and such as he, First named these notes a melancholy strain. And many a poet echoes the conceit; Poet who hath been building up the rhyme When he had better far have stretched his limbs Beside a brook in mossy forest-dell, By sun or moon-light, to the influxes Of shapes and sounds and shifting elements Surrendering his whole spirit, of his song And of his fame forgetful! so his fame Should share in Nature's immortality, A venerable thing! and so his song Should make all Nature lovelier, and itself Be loved like Nature! But 'twill not be so; And youths and maidens most poetical, Who lose the deepening twilights of the spring In ball-rooms and hot theatres, they still Full of meek sympathy must heave their sighs O'er Philomela's pity-pleading strains. My Friend, and thou, our Sister! we have learnt A different lore: we may not thus profane Nature's sweet voices, always full of love And joyance! 'Tis the merry Nightingale That crowds and hurries, and precipitates With fast thick warble his delicious notes, As he were fearful that an April night Would be too short for him to utter forth His love-chant, and disburthen his full soul Of all its music! And I know a grove Of large extent, hard by a castle huge, Which the great lord inhabits not; and so This grove is wild with tangling underwood, And the trim walks are broken up, and grass, Thin grass and king-cups grow within the paths. But never elsewhere in one place I knew So many nightingales; and far and near, In wood and thicket, over the wide grove, They answer and provoke each other's song, With skirmish and capricious passagings, And murmurs musical and swift jug jug, And one low piping sound more sweet than all Stirring the air with such a harmony, That should you close your eyes, you might almost Forget it was not day! On moonlight bushes, Whose dewy leaflets are but half-disclosed, You may perchance behold them on the twigs, Their bright, bright eyes, their eyes both bright and full, Glistening, while many a glow-worm in the shade Lights up her love-torch. A most gentle Maid, Who dwelleth in her hospitable home Hard by the castle, and at latest eve (Even like a Lady vowed and dedicate To something more than Nature in the grove) Glides through the pathways; she knows all their notes, That gentle Maid! and oft, a moment's space, What time the moon was lost behind a cloud, Hath heard a pause of silence; till the moon Emerging, a hath awakened earth and sky With one sensation, and those wakeful birds Have all burst forth in choral minstrelsy, As if some sudden gale had swept at once A hundred airy harps! And she hath watched Many a nightingale perch giddily On blossomy twig still swinging from the breeze, And to that motion tune his wanton song Like tipsy Joy that reels with tossing head. Farewell! O Warbler! till tomorrow eve, And you, my friends! farewell, a short farewell! We have been loitering long and pleasantly, And now for our dear homes.That strain again! Full fain it would delay me! My dear babe, Who, capable of no articulate sound, Mars all things with his imitative lisp, How he would place his hand beside his ear, His little hand, the small forefinger up, And bid us listen! And I deem it wise To make him Nature's play-mate. He knows well The evening-star; and once, when he awoke In most distressful mood (some inward pain Had made up that strange thing, an infant's dream) I hurried with him to our orchard-plot, And he beheld the moon, and, hushed at once, Suspends his sobs, and laughs most silently, While his fair eyes, that swam with undropped tears, Did glitter in the yellow moon-beam! Well! It is a father's tale: But if that Heaven Should give me life, his childhood shall grow up Familiar with these songs, that with the night He may associate joy. Once more, farewell, Sweet Nightingale! once more, my friends! farewell.






Plot of the poem Nightingale



After twilight, the speaker, the speaker’s friend, and the friend’s sister sit and rest on an “old mossy bridge,” beneath which a stream flows silently. Hearing a nightingale’s song, the speaker remembers that the nightingale has been called a “melancholy bird” and thinks that such an assignation is ridiculous: While a melancholy human being might feel that a natural object expresses his present mood, nature itself cannot be melancholy. The speaker regrets that so many poets have written about the “melancholy” song of the nightingale, when they would have been better off putting aside their pens and simply listening to this natural music. The speaker tells his companions that they are not like those “youths and maidens most poetical,” for to them, nature’s voices are full of love and joy. He says that he knows of a neglected grove near a huge castle, which is visited by more nightingales than he has ever heard in his life; at night, they layer the air with harmony. He says that a “most gentle Maid” has been known to walk through the glade. Sometimes, the moon passes behind a cloud, and the nightingales grow quiet, but then it comes out again, and they burst forth into song. The speaker bids “a short farewell” to his companions and to the nightingale but says that were the bird to sing again now, he would still stay to listen. Even his infant child, he says, loves the sound and is often soothed by the moonlight. The speaker hopes his son will learn to associate nighttime with joy. Then, he again bids farewell to his friends and the nightingale.




Nightingale analysis



No cloud, no relique of the sunken day

Distinguishes the West, no long thin slip

Of sullen light, no obscure trembling hues.

Come, we will rest on this old mossy bridge!

You see the glimmer of the stream beneath,

But hear no murmuring: it flows silently.

O’er its soft bed of verdure. All is still.

A balmy night! and though the stars be dim,

Yet let us think upon the vernal showers

That gladden the green earth, and we shall find

A pleasure in the dimness of the stars.

And hark! the Nightingale begins its song,

‘Most musical, most melancholy’ bird!

A melancholy bird? Oh! idle thought!

In Nature there is nothing melancholy.

But some night-wandering man whose heart was pierced

With the remembrance of a grievous wrong,

Or slow distemper, or neglected love,

(And so, poor wretch! filled all things with himself,

And made all gentle sounds tell back the tale

Of his own sorrow) he, and such as he,

First named these notes a melancholy strain.

And many a poet echoes the conceit;

Poet who hath been building up the rhyme

When he had better far have stretched his limbs

Beside a brook in mossy forest-dell,

By sun or moon-light, to the influxes

Of shapes and sounds and shifting elements

Surrendering his whole spirit, of his song

And of his fame forgetful! so his fame

Should share in Nature’s immortality,

A venerable thing! and so his song

Should make all Nature lovelier, and itself

Be loved like Nature! But ’twill not be so;

And youths and maidens most poetical,

Who lose the deepening twilights of the spring

In ball-rooms and hot theatres, they still

Full of meek sympathy must heave their sighs

O’er Philomela’s pity-pleading strains.

This first stanza establishes the place where the lyrical voice’s reflection will take place. The lyrical voice describes this “old mossy bridge” which functions as a dramatic setting, where things occur with immediacy (And hark! the Nightingale begins its song). There is, also, a direct interpellation to the reader (“Come”) in the beginning of this stanza. The scenery will be carefully portrayed by the lyrical voice leaving no detail behind. The construction of this place, greatly surrounded by nature (“O’er its soft bed of verdure”), is what prepares the criticism that the lyrical voice will present. The description is focused on depicting the natural features of the landscape in a sensible and beautiful way. The lyrical voice starts talking about the nightingale when he/she sees that the bird starts singing. The song of the bird will function as the trigger for the reflexion, enabling the lyrical voice’s problematization of the figure of the nightingale. The description of the bird begins with a quote from Milton’s Il Penseroso (‘Most musical, most melancholy’). This passage contains a dramatic property that concentrates the thought of the previous generation. The Lyrical voice, then, will contradict this to establish the true character of the nightingale (“A melancholy bird? Oh! idle thought!”) and, also, the true character of nature (“In Nature there is nothing melancholy”). The lyrical voice states that one man once made up the wrong impression about nature and that, then, poets followed him. The lyrical voice refers indirectly to Milton again (“Poet who hath been building up the rhyme”) and says that poets had externalized their own emotions into the portrayal of nature. On the other hand, the lyrical voice believes that poetry “Should make all Nature lovelier, and itself /Be loved like Nature!”. Finally, the lyrical voice references the classic myth of Philomena, where the nightingale is described as a transformed maiden, for being another incorrect way of describing the nightingale’s song.

My Friend, and thou, our Sister! we have learnt

A different lore: we may not thus profane

Nature’s sweet voices, always full of love

And joyance! ‘Tis the merry Nightingale

That crowds and hurries, and precipitates

With fast thick warble his delicious notes,

As he were fearful that an April night

Would be too short for him to utter forth

His love-chant, and disburthen his full soul

Of all its music!

This second stanza begins with another direct interpellation. Here, “My Friend, and thou, our Sister!” refers to William and Dorothy Wordsworth. The lyrical voice will continue explaining what he said in the previous stanza; describing nature with personal emotions is a way to “profane” the environment. Nature is described as full of love and joy, misunderstood by many. Notice the imagery created around nature and how it represents all good things. On the contrary, there is the imagery of those who can’t understand nature; they break the sweet and noble atmosphere that nature establishes. Therefore, this stanza accentuates and emphasizes the notion of nature that the lyrical voice established in the first stanza.

And I know a grove

Of large extent, hard by a castle huge,

Which the great lord inhabits not; and so

This grove is wild with tangling underwood,

And the trim walks are broken up, and grass,

Thin grass and king-cups grow within the paths.

But never elsewhere in one place I knew

So many nightingales; and far and near,

In wood and thicket, over the wide grove,

They answer and provoke each other’s song,

With skirmish and capricious passagings,

And murmurs musical and swift jug jug,

And one low piping sound more sweet than all

Stirring the air with such a harmony,

That should you close your eyes, you might almost

Forget it was not day! On moonlight bushes,

Whose dewy leaflets are but half-disclosed,

You may perchance behold them on the twigs,

Their bright, bright eyes, their eyes both bright and full,

Glistening, while many a glow-worm in the shade

Lights up her love-torch.

This stanza depicts a particular place. The lyrical voice describes a neglected grove which is near an enormous castle. This abandoned place is characterized as forgotten, with “Thin grass and king-cups grow within the paths”. However, the lyrical voice says that this place is full of nightingales that sing frequently. The imagery of the description of the place is very distant to the description of the song of the nightingales, producing an oxymoron. Notice, also, how the nightingales’ songs are described, the words used, and how they “answer and provoke each other’s song”. The song of the nightingales becomes a sort of ritual, a natural wonder. The lyrical voice seems mesmerized by this place and by the song of the nightingales.

A most gentle Maid,

Who dwelleth in her hospitable home

Hard by the castle, and at latest eve

(Even like a Lady vowed and dedicate

To something more than Nature in the grove)

Glides through the pathways; she knows all their notes,

That gentle Maid! and oft, a moment’s space,

What time the moon was lost behind a cloud,

Hath heard a pause of silence; till the moon

Emerging, a hath awakened earth and sky

With one sensation, and those wakeful birds

Have all burst forth in choral minstrelsy,

As if some sudden gale had swept at once

A hundred airy harps! And she hath watched

Many a nightingale perch giddily

On blossomy twig still swinging from the breeze,

And to that motion tune his wanton song

Like tipsy Joy that reels with tossing head.

In this stanza, the story of a “most gentle maid” is presented. This maid is known for walking through the glade, but this story has a peculiarity. When the moon passed behind a cloud, all the nightingales stopped singing, but, when the moon reappeared, the nightingales began singing again. The maid is described as a girl who frequents the place and hears the nightingales often (“Glides through the pathways; she knows all their notes,”). This stanza and the previous one are linked by the same theme and scenery. Furthermore, the song of the nightingale continues to be a recurrent topic throughout the lines of The Nightingale. According to the lyrical voice’s description, the girl seems to be another careful observer of nature. Nature, also, is once again involved in a description of joy and is depicted by a fairytale-like narration.

Farewell! O Warbler! till tomorrow eve,

And you, my friends! farewell, a short farewell!

We have been loitering long and pleasantly,

And now for our dear homes. That strain again!

Full fain it would delay me! My dear babe,

Who, capable of no articulate sound,

Mars all things with his imitative lisp,

How he would place his hand beside his ear,

His little hand, the small forefinger up,

And bid us listen! And I deem it wise

To make him Nature’s play-mate. He knows well

The evening-star; and once, when he awoke

In most distressful mood (some inward pain

Had made up that strange thing, an infant’s dream)

I hurried with him to our orchard-plot,

And he beheld the moon, and, hushed at once,

Suspends his sobs, and laughs most silently,

While his fair eyes, that swam with undropped tears,

Did glitter in the yellow moon-beam! Well!

It is a father’s tale: But if that Heaven

Should give me life, his childhood shall grow up

Familiar with these songs, that with the night

He may associate joy. Once more, farewell,

Sweet Nightingale! once more, my friends! farewell.

This final stanza shows how the lyrical voice says goodbye to his friends and to the nightingale. It is time for the lyrical voice to return to his/her home after a long conversation. The lyrical voice refers to his/her child. He/she wants “To make him Nature’s play-mate”, teaching him all the previous things he has said throughout the poem about nature and joy. The lyrical voice wants to teach his/her child to associate night with joy, as the baby is frequently calmed by the moon. The entire poem represents the knowledge that the lyrical voice wishes for his/her child to acquire as he grows. As nature, night will also be a place of joy. Finally, the lyrical voice refers directly to his friends and the nightingale to say goodbye once again. This final lines give closure to the poem which convey a specific vision about the portrayal of nature; a vision that has to be taught in order to eliminate the previous thoughts about nature


 

Analysis of themes in Nightingale



THE NIGHTINGALE THEME OF MAN AND THE NATURAL WORLD



 

Want to take a walk out under the moonlight? "The Nightingale" will suit you just fine. Coleridge's lines are thick with nature imagery, from mossy groves to twigs with birds singing to glow worms giving off their bright light. Oh, and we can't forget the moon and stars. But it is mankind's use of nature to suit his own needs that concerns the poet, who tells us to go out and experience the greenery before writing a poem about what it feels like. The elements of nature play a part in reminding the reader to experience the way things really are, and not just stay inside their head all day.



THE NIGHTINGALE THEME OF ART AND CULTURE


 Nightingale," is produced in conjunction with nature. He advises all the poets of the world to spend a great deal of time outside, taking it all in. He also advises against assuming that the song of a bird corresponds with the emotion the poet might be feeling. Instead, he says that the only way to make eternal work is to become close to the immortal natural world. But, the speaker laments, this isn't the way most poets will live, and thus, their art will never reach immortality. Too bad for them.



THE NIGHTINGALE THEME OF SADNESS




Historically speaking, the nightingale is the Debbie Downer of poetry symbols. The song of the nightingale is often equated with melancholy, sorrow, and just all-around bad times. But, argues the speaker of "The Nightingale," that's only a reflection of the listener's mood. The speaker imagines a poet suddenly remembering a source of grief or heartbreak upon hearing the nightingale's song and deciding that it was a melancholy noise. But is the nightingale itself sad? That, argues the speaker, cannot be discerned by just its song, which could just as easily be joyful. It is only the sadness of mankind that is being reflected when poets call an element of nature "melancholy." We self-centered humans project our sadness onto all sorts of things.






THE NIGHTINGALE THEME OF TRANSFORMATION




Several instances of transformation occur in the poem. When someone surrenders their spirit to nature, argues "The Nightingale," they turn into a better artist. All it takes is spending some quality time outdoors. Later, the emergence of the moon transforms the grove into a symphony of bird songs. In both instances, the transformation is caused by everyday things—nothing supernatural here. The transformation, then, comes from within, and it happens when we learn to look at things with fresh eyes.




SETTING



Where It All Goes Down It's a lovely night and we've joined our speaker for a bit of peaceful reverie. The sun has gone down and the night sky is full of dim stars. The green moss below us (and several clues from the speaker) indicate that it's springtime. There's a castle, a nearby grove, and a body of water below us. And… well, those are all the clues we get. Though it's widely believed that Coleridge was addressing Wordsworth, his fellow British Romantic (which may help make sense of the castle), this much else is not overtly indicated in the actual poem. This, when you think about the topic, might be of purpose.

After all, Coleridge was talking about big, universal ideas like poetry and nature. He wanted people to sit outside and examine the beauty of nature.
That's a pretty timeless message, so perhaps he didn't want to date it by making the era clear.

posted from Bloggeroid

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