Ode on Melancholy by John Keats

“Ode on Melancholy” is one of five odes composed by English poet John Keats in the spring of 1819, along with “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, “Ode to a Nightingale”, “Ode on Indolence”, and “Ode to Psyche”. The narrative of the poem describes the poet’s perception of melancholy through a lyrics discourse between the poet and the reader, along with the introduction to Ancient Grecian characters and ideals.

“Ode on Melancholy” consists of three stanzas with ten lines each. Because the poem has fewer stanzas than “Ode on Indolence” and “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, the rhyme scheme appears less elaborate, with the first and second stanzas sharing a rhyme scheme of: ABABCDECDE, while the third takes on one of its own: ABABCDEDCE. As with “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, “Ode on Indolence”, and “To Autumn”, each stanza begins with an ABAB rhyme scheme then finishes with a Miltonic sestet. The general meter of the poem is iambic pentameter.

The “Ode on Melancholy” is different from the others because of its style. The only ode not to be written in the first person, “Melancholy” finds the speaker advising sufferers of melancholy in the imperative mode. It seeks to synthesize the language of all the previous odes—the Greek mythology of “Indolence” and “Urn,” the beautiful descriptions of nature in “Psyche” and “Nightingale,” the passion of “Nightingale,” and the philosophy of “Urn,” all find expression in its three stanzas—but “Melancholy” is more than simply an amalgam of the previous poems. In it, the speaker at last explores the nature of transience and the connection of pleasure and pain in a way that lets him move beyond the insufficient aesthetic understanding of “Urn” and achieve the deeper understanding of “To Autumn.”


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