Poems about the Bird—A Comparative Study of Ode to a Nightingale and Sailing to Byzantium

Shu Xue


Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats in 1819 and Sailing to Byzantium by W. B. Yeats in 1928 both employ the image of a bird to express the poets’ longing for an ideal and immortal world. Yeats mirrors some tradition from Keats in writing the poem, but their disparate experiences construct varied descriptions about their ideal worlds. The nightingale, a natural bird, puts Keats in question—“do I wake or sleep” and delivers a tone of mournfulness; whereas the golden bird, an artificial object, guides Yeats through “what is past, or passing, or to come” and delivers a message of hope in the end.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5539/ells.v3n4p22


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