Ode to a Nightingale
by John Keats
Ode to a Nightingale Versions of Reality Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (line)
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk: (lines 3-4)
The poem opens with the speaker "sinking" into mental confusion and intoxication. "Lethe" is associated with the loss of memory, so the poem takes place in an imaginative world, not the speaker's real, remembered world. The topic of his mental state will return again and again in the following seven stanzas.
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim: (lines 19-20)
The speaker wants to escape from his everyday reality, which he obviously find unsatisfying. It's like being at a really bad party and trying to slip out the back door unnoticed. The poem is full of images of "sinking" and "fading" into darkness. Darkness might symbolize death.
Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards: (lines 31-34)
The poem debates the various ways to leave the world behind and join the nightingale. Wine and drunkenness, symbolized by the Greek god Bacchus and his pals, are dismissed, and Poetry takes their place. This is the beginning of the section that takes place in fantasy.