Study Guide

The Nightingale Art and Culture

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Art and Culture

The best art, says the speaker of "The Nightingale," is produced in conjunction with nature. He advises all the poets of the world to spend a great deal of time outside, taking it all in. He also advises against assuming that the song of a bird corresponds with the emotion the poet might be feeling. Instead, he says that the only way to make eternal work is to become close to the immortal natural world. But, the speaker laments, this isn't the way most poets will live, and thus, their art will never reach immortality. Too bad for them.

Questions About Art and Culture

  1. What is the speaker's objection to calling the nightingale "melancholy?" What does it have to do with poetry?
  2. What does the poet have to do to make his work immortal? Why?
  3. What role does the myth of Philomela play in the poem?
  4. Why do you think Coleridge references Milton?

Chew on This

Since it's produced by people, art is always about people—first and foremost. Coleridge's speaker is barking up the wrong tree in this grove.

To make art, the poem tells us, one must first fully understand their subject.

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