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Ode to a Nightingale

Ode to a Nightingale


by John Keats

Wine and Intoxication

Symbol Analysis

No poet that we know of features images of wine and drunkenness in his or her poems as often as Mr. John Keats. Seriously, do not let this man near a bar. He acts drunk enough under the influence of language, we'd hate to see what happened if he got his hands on a couple bottles of actual wine. This poem is structured to make us think that the speaker is intoxicated by the music of the nightingale, which leads him to dream of fading off into a blissful nothingness, much like a really drunk person.

  • Line 2: The first half of the first stanza consists of several comparisons of the speaker to someone who is, essentially, totally wasted. Drunk. Sloshed. Blotto. In line 2 he says he feels like he has drunken hemlock, a poison. So, um, not a good kind of drunk.
  • Line 3: Using the same basis of comparison, he says he feels "as though," he consumed an "opiate" (a narcotic made from opium poppy seedpods) that, while not as poisonous as hemlock, still reduces you to basically a coma.
  • Lines 11-15: The speaker says he wants a special kind of wine distilled from all the earth's goodness and containing the essence of the south of France (Provence), with its sun, warm weather, and lush plants.
  • Lines 17-18: These images zoom in on the glass of wine he wants to consume. The popping of bubbles at the top of the glass is compared to "winking" eyes. Wine stains your mouth purple.
  • Lines 42-43: The plants in the dark forest are compared to "incense," or the really fragrant substance that Shmoop's college roommate liked to use even though it was not allowed in the dorms (grrr...). Putting aside our bad memories, Keats thinks this incense is a good smell.

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