Ode on Melancholy

Ode on Melancholy

by John Keats

No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss’d
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

Summary of Ode on Melancholy

  • Popularity of “Ode on Melancholy”: John Keats, a popular romantic poet, wrote ‘Ode on Melancholy’. It was first published in 1820, in Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems. The poem speaks about the transience of happiness and joys. It also illustrates that sadness is an unavoidable accompaniment of man’s life.
  • “Ode on Melancholy” As a Representative of Life: The poem accounts for the nature of melancholy and its permanent existence in man’s life. It begins with a list of things one should avoid. The speaker has used a lot of negative words to highlight the phenomenon of bad temperament and misery. He argues that melancholy is an essential part of human life and nobody can escape it. He says that when you feel sad and start thinking about biting the past, you are certainly missing the glories of nature spread around you.
    He further says that sadness and anguish must be expressed and melancholy should be embraced, not suffered. As the poem continues, the speaker attempts to relate a connection between melancholy, happiness, and beauty. To him, beauty and all the pleasures of the world are transient, and all good things come to an end. Whereas melancholy is a constant phenomenon, to enjoy the fleeting nature of joy, one must accept and experience melancholy. What, however, stays in the minds of the readers is the way he presents a stark comparison between joys and sadness.
  • Major Themes in “Ode on Melancholy”: The transience of beauty, human emotions, and melancholy are the major themes underlined in this poem. Throughout the poem, the speaker develops the idea that pain and sadness are unavoidable. So, to enjoy the true colors of happiness and beauty, we must accept melancholy as an essential part of our life and reflect the transient nature of beauty and happiness. He adds that all beautiful objects come to an end. So, we should not try to end our pains through drugs or suicide. Instead, we should face them courageously. This poem is particularly applicable for this time during the crisis as many people are disappointed and broken. They must find hope and hold on it.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Ode on Melancholy”

Literary devices are techniques that the writers use to convey their ideas feelings and messages to the readers. Their usage adds more to the poem and opens it up for multiple interpretations. Keats has also used some literary elements in this poem to speak about the nature of melancholy. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem is listed below.

  1. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of the same consonant sounds in the same lines of poetry. For example, the sound of /s/ in “His soul shalt taste the sadness of” and /r/ sound in “Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave.”
  2. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of any word or expression in the poem. For example, “And feed deep, deep upon her” and “She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die.”
  3. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same lines of poetry such as the sound of /ee/ in “And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes” and /o/ sound in “Or on the wealth of globed peonies” and “A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line of poetry such as the sound of /l/ in “in the very temple of Delight” and /t/ and /th/ sounds in “No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist.”
  5. Apostrophe: An apostrophe is a device used to call somebody from afar. The poet addresses the “melancholy”, in the opening lines of the poem.

“No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine.”

  1. Paradox: A paradox is a statement that may seem contradictory but yet can be true, or at least makes sense. There is a paradox in the twenty-third line. For example, “Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh.”
  2. Personification: Personification is to give human characteristics to non-human things. For example, ‘melancholy’ in the twenty-sixth line is personified. “Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine.”
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. For example, “Lethe” and “Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted” are the symbols of death, and “droop-headed flowers” are a symbol of nature.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Ode on Melancholy”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “cloud/shroud”, “fall/all” and “lips/sips.
  2. Iambic Pentameter: It is a type of meter having ive iambs per line. The poem follows iambic pentameter such as;for shade to shade will come too drowsi
  3. Ode: An ode is a classical kind of poem that was originally meant to be sung. The ancient Greeks used to sing their odes.
  4. Stanza: Stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas in this poem each of them consists of ten lines.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful for religious speeches to console the doleful hearts.

“Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine.”