Ode on Melancholy
by John Keats
Spring and Flowers
Ah, springtime. Flowers, new life, and joy. What could be better? Well, as the speaker of this poem would tell you, you can't have spring without a winter before it. And you can't have new life without death. And you can't have joy without sorrow.
- Line 4: Proserpine is the Greek goddess of spring and new life as well as the queen of the Underworld, so this allusion could refer both to her role as the goddess of the land of the dead and to her association with spring and flowers. Seems pretty appropriate for a poem that wants to emphasize how much life and death are linked.
- Lines 13-14: The speaker uses another metaphor when he says that a melancholy mood is like a fog that hides a green hill and all its "droop-headed flowers" in springtime. But the moisture from a fog can actually help flowers to grow, so that the hill is even greener and more flowery after the fog lifts. So maybe the speaker is suggesting that feeling melancholy every now and then can make your good moods seem even brighter? The image of the "April shroud" is almost an oxymoron, since April, a springtime month, brings new life and growth, while a "shroud" is a cloth that gets wrapped around dead bodies before burial.
- Lines 15 and 17: The speaker references "morning roses" and "peonies" as examples of flowers that are beautiful, but whose beauty doesn't last long. So if you're feeling melancholy, you should nourish that depression by thinking about flowers that are going to wilt and turn brown in a day or two.