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Themes

Not to play Captain Obvious or anything, but the poem's called "Ode on Melancholy." So, yeppers, sadness is gonna play a big role. But this poem isn't about how to dispel melancholy or how to shake a bad mood; it's actually about how to embrace melancholy and depression and how to make the most of it. According to the speaker, melancholy and sadness are part of the natural human range of emotion, and in order to really experience joy, you have to allow yourself to experience sorrow, as well.

Questions About Sadness

  1. Why is melancholy a good thing, according to the speaker? (You may have to read between the lines a bit for this one.)
  2. What is the best way to experience melancholy, according to the poem? What are the things to avoid?
  3. What metaphors or images does the poet use to describe sadness? Why might he have chosen these particular images? What sense of sadness do they convey?
  4. The speaker never describes his own, personal experience with melancholy. How would a more personal account of sadness change your reading of the poem?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The poem argues that sorrow and joy are so closely linked that it is impossible to fully experience one without the other.

Although the speaker argues that joy can turn to sorrow, various images and allusions hint at the hope that the reverse is also true.

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