Summary and Critical Appreciation of “Ode on Melancholy” by John Keats
“Ode on melancholy” by John Keats is a master-piece by John Keats. It is a great example of development of Keats’ concept of intellectualism. This development is achieved through his personal experiences. He was a disappointed lover and the pangs of the disease he suffered all made him realize that there is beauty and happiness are far away from a man in this real world. We see Keats making the decision of plunging into the sea of imagination. He decides to do so because he wants to avoid ‘fever and fret’ of the world. The sea which he decides to plunge is full of beauty, love and pleasure and completely free of miseries and plights. But very soon, he feels that he cannot stay here because it is imaginary world. The world of imagination is completely different from the world of reality. Here, the conflict between the world of reality and the world of imagination gets a start. Basically, he realizes the true and bitter fact that life is a blend of pleasures and sorrows. It should be accepted as a whole.
In the first stanza, the poet says that use of intoxicating drugs and poisonous herbs should be avoided to feel the full force of melancholy. No one should bind his head with any poisonous plant. If we avoid the use of these things, we will definitely feel the real taste of melancholy.
In the next stanza, the poet makes a comparison between a fit of melancholy and a rain charged cloud that refreshes the withering sentiments of our hearts. During the rain, beautiful objects of nature are dimmed. In the same way, melancholy covers the delightful thoughts but it never darkens them forever and ever. However, to taste the full force of melancholy, we must have our relation with the beautiful things around us.
In the last stanza, the poet creates a beautiful word picture and says that melancholy and beauty go side by side. Having experienced pleasure which is short-lived, we have to join the world of melancholy again.
To be brief, Keats has done a great job by writing such a wonderful ode. He has shown that his love is not purely sensuous but also replete with intellectualism. With the help of use of beautiful imagery and personification, he has created a great style in writing ode. We fully agree with the remarks of a critic who opines: “This ode is the subtlest in the sweetness of thought and feeling.” (Words: 414)