Comparison Between Keats and Dickinson

Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats

In this poem, juxtaposition is present between mortals and immortality, which is the nightingale, and other people like himself. In turn, this sharpens the feelings of how Keats admires immortality and death as opposed to mortality where one grows old and suffers. In the entire third stanza, he says, “The weariness, the fever, and the fret, here, where men sit and hear each other groan; where palsy shakes a few, sad, gray hairs, where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies; where but to think is to be full of sorrow and leaden-eyed despairs, where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, or new love pine at them beyond tomorrow.” Obviously a lot of this poem consists of him expressing his utter abhorrence towards growing old and suffering. It expresses his hatred of being mortal and near death but yet to die. In stanza 8, he says, “I have been half in love with easeful death”. Even though he is ambivalent as most people are about death, he is sick and suffering and death will take that pain away making it easeful. In Stanza 1, he says, “Hemlock, that I might drink, and leave the world unseen” He wants to die and leave the world peacefully or “unseen” as to not harm anyone else by his passing and make them suffer as well. Ultimately, he is affable with death, which is personified in the bird as well as immortality. In stanza 7, he says, “Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird!” This is in contrast with humans that were basically born to die, however they were still born, and according to Greek mythology, because they are nymphs in trees they do in fact die but in a very natural and peaceful way. Through the constant circle of life and death, the bird is always looked at in the same way. Humans always have an individual and unique persona and when they die, they are perceived as gone forever. This is in complete contrast with the nightingale. Through that continuous cycle, the nightingale inadvertently is immortal through obtaining the untroubled persona through life and death, which is what Keats truly is envious of.

Because I Could Not Stop for Death by Emily Dickinson

In Dickinson’s poem juxtaposition between life and afterlife is amplified through personification. This sharpens the feeling of how Dickinson sees death as her friend or someone that can be extremely friendly and loving while immortality is thus exposed through death as a different element altogether. In the second stanza, she says, “We slowly drove, he knew no haste, and I had put away my labor, and my leisure too, for his civility.” Obviously death and Dickinson have a lovely rapport that provides a rather different view of death’s typical characteristics, which usually include restlessness caused by fear. In the last stanza, she says, “Since then ‘tis centuries, and yet each feels shorter than the day I first surmised the horses’ heads were towards eternity.” And in the first stanza, “Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me; the carriage held just ourselves and immortality.” Here, Dickinson mentions eternity and immortality. Both deal with the concept of time never ending, but uses death as an origin to immortality and eternity, which is very ironic. In the third stanza, she says, “We passed the school, where children strove at recess, in the ring; we passed the fields of gazing grain, we passed the setting sun.” The characters Dickinson, Death and Immortality are basically passing her memories that are filled with life and youth, which causes a nostalgic mood to be present. Personification is a noticeable element in this poem since it is present in every character, which in turn represents said character with the exception of Dickinson. Death and Immortality represent two different characters that are perceived as human since they are riding in the carriage with Dickinson. Through this characterization, one understands that Death and Immortality are two different concepts that are contrasted by being personified into two different people in the carriage. Even so, they are compared because they are equally presented as a person like Dickinson. Death is explained more throughout the poem to let the concept of immortality follow death.

Effects of Juxtaposition on Both 

The juxtaposition offers a clearer comparison in themes. First deals with life and death. Dickinson refers to a lot of imagery of life and youth personified in children playing. In contrast, Keats uses a lot of characters that are perceived at more of an elderly age. In turn, this changes the entire meaning of the poem that the reader is supposed to develop. When looking at Keats, the beginning of life to the end deals with the constant suffering that life eventually brings. This is in contrast with Dickinson where she focuses on life as a journey that deals with the happiness of youth to accomplishing the end, since her and the character of Death are friendly and civil toward one another. Next is immortality and death. Immortality and death are presented in both these poems as unique outlooks that have to do with one another. Immortality can basically be achieved through death because it ends all suffering while there is also the aspect of eternal life through death. Looking at these poems, both these authors believe that when one dies, they enter a place that ends all suffering, which is equal to immortality. Even so, Keats refers to immortality as a continuous cycle of life and death without suffering existing in the nightingale. This is in contrast with Dickinson who refers to immortality as just a continuous afterlife. Since there is a slight difference between the two, there is thus a much larger difference in the presence of mood.

Through a clear comparison, certain moods are transcribed from juxtaposing themes allowing the reader to have a better understanding of the author’s actual meaning. First is the theme of life. The moods in both poems are vastly different when looking at how each author perceives life. In the ode, Keats uses somber diction. For example, “The weariness, the fever, and the fret, here, where men sit and hear each other groan…” Here, Keats is referring to the burden that is life. Emily Dickinson does not use the concept of one’s suffering in her poem to help create a more accepting mood towards death. The whole reason for this is that someone full of life, like Dickinson, to willingly accept death as a friend differs from one’s average view of death. The juxtaposition here in mood helps Dickinson underline her unique feelings of death more successfully. And again in contrast, Keats presents a mood that is a somber view of life, which differs from Dickinson where she focuses on the beauty of death. Keats is apprehensive of death, which quells any positive mood being aroused. Even so, his mood towards the eternal beauty of immortality is more significant because it is brought through death, which juxtaposes life. This juxtaposition is meant to dissimilate between life and immortality, thus creating a somber mood. Next are the themes of immortality and death. What’s unique about these authors is that they both use death as the origin of immortality, which is rather an uncommon view. Immortality is usually the belief of continuously living, however Dickinson’s view is the belief of continuously being dead along with Keats, which is continuously living and dying in an everlasting cycle. Once again, this slight difference is brought on by the fact that they have a difference in reasoning which in turn brings complete difference in mood. Because Dickinson focuses on the broader and more happy aspect of death which even relieves any suffering, Keats focuses on the negative aspect of life and its suffering.

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