Study Guide

The Nightingale The Nightingale and Its Song

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The Nightingale and Its Song

The nightingale is the Christina Aguilera of the bird world. Whether it's the lament of a brokenhearted young man or the joyful tune of nature's reverie, the nightingale's song weaves through the night.

The speaker first mentions the "melancholy" associations with the bird's song in line 12. He then goes on to explain that whoever first decided it was a sorrowful noise must have been suffering from a personal sorrow. Later in line 29, a nightingale of Greek myth, Philomela, makes an appearance, singing a sad song.

But, says the speaker, that isn't how every nightingale feels.

A "merry" nightingale sings in line 44 and again in lines 83-85. As the speaker says goodnight to the bird at the end of the poem, he reminds us that we bring our own emotions to the song it sings, and that nature is far more complex than we might be giving it credit for.

And it isn't just about one bird's song. The nightingale is a symbol for anything we apply our own emotion to in a way that is perhaps unfair. Who says a nightingale isn't singing a happy song?

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