Study Guide

Ode to a Nightingale Man and the Natural World

By John Keats

Man and the Natural World

The speaker of "Ode to a Nightingale" loves nature, but he can't get on board with the whole natural-things-have-to-die-sometime thing. He even fancies that the nightingale is some immortal, godlike creature. However, nature is his best hope for escape from the world of work, stress, responsibility, and complicated human relationships. Although he begins the poem sitting just outside of a wooded area, he will not be satisfied until he can experience the forest from the perspective of one of its creatures: from the inside. He imagines becoming intoxicated from the smells of all the forest plants and flowers.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Does the poet view himself as a part of nature or as outside of nature?
  2. Does he admire the nightingale because it is so "natural" or so "unnatural"? That is, because it is a shining example of nature's beauty or because it exceeds the limitations of nature?
  3. How do the images of nature within the nightingale's world (the middle of the poem) compare to the images elsewhere in the poem? What is distinctive about this world?
  4. What is the significance of the flight of the nightingale at the end of the poem? Why does Keats conclude the poem with this image?

Chew on This

The speaker admires the nightingale because it transcends the natural cycle of life and death through its immortal song.

The poem's central conflict is driven by the speaker's desire to transform and reinvent nature to fit his own desires.