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Comparison of Two Poems on Birds
Nature has always been treated as an important theme in literature. Birds are also mentioned as natural objects in poetry. In fact, many poets have written many beautiful poems about birds. Birds are also often used as symbols in poetry. For example, in Bangla literature, the cuckoo bird is often associated with spring time. There are many poems written about birds in English literature, or birds play an important role in the poems.
For example, Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats and Ode to a Sky by PB Shelly are two very famous poems about birds. Another such poem is The Age of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in which the poet used the Albatross as a symbol. According to the requirement of the assignment, I have chosen John Keats’s Ode to Nightingale and STColeridge’s The Ancient Mariner’s Country for my discussion.
Before discussing the two poems mentioned above, it is necessary to shed some light on the two poets and the Romantic era in English literature as a whole. The Romantic era is a unique era in English literature because in this era, all poets wrote their poetry about nature and nature-related themes. Nature forms the main aspect of their poetry. Before them, no poet could think of nature as the main subject of a poem. Romantic poets successfully implemented this theme. As a result, all the great poems about birds were written in this age. John Keats was a romantic poet who loved the beauty of nature in his poetry. Natural objects become alive and beautiful in his poem, but he does not treat them as inanimate natural objects. Rather, he mixed his own emotions and creates a personal connection with them.
In his poems, he also expresses his own personal feelings such as happiness, sadness, hope, disappointment, etc. In Ode to a Nightingale, Keats expressed his desire to escape from the harsh reality he could not bear. He wants to join the nightingale and fly away to a dreamland.
On the other hand, STColeridge touched the supernatural elements of nature and presented them in a very natural way. Coleridge had a brilliant imagination and with his excellent narrative skills he could imagine the most supernatural things and then describe them in the most natural way. In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge describes the life of a mariner who killed an albatross and then suffered tremendously for killing it. The whole poem is based on the reaction of killing the albatross. The bird is a beautiful creature of God, and by killing the albatross for no reason, the sailor committed a grave sin against God.
It wasn’t until the twentieth century that people learned to fly like birds before the aeroplane was discovered. Men have always been fascinated by the idea of flying like a bird. According to Greek mythology, Daedalus and Icarus tried to imitate birds and made artificial wings to fly. Their efforts failed with tragedy. So the concept of flight was like a dream for mankind, until the beginning of the twentieth century, people marveled at birds because they could fly in the sky. Poets also appreciated this thing and their minds wanted to fly with them. We see this kind of urge in Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale. John Keats’ life was very tragic and he died early from an illness. He also fell crushingly in love with a lady, which brought him no success, only misery, and some influential literary critics of his time criticized his poetry in the worst possible way. Thus the life of John Keats became very miserable.
All his life he sought an escape from suffering, and in Ode to a Nightingale we find Keats’s desperate effort to escape the harsh, cruel world around him. He feels that the nightingale is very lucky to be able to fly away from anywhere. At the beginning of the poem, the poet refers to his miserable condition:
My heart aches and a sleepy numbness aches
My senses, as from the hemlock I drank,
Or he flushed some boring opiate down the drain
A minute passed, and Lethe-wards sank:
Here you can see that the poet suffered a lot when he wrote this poem. Life has become too painful for him, he feels like he’s been drinking weed or opium. He wants to forget all his pain and be happy in the happiness of the nightingale.
For Coleridge, the albatross is not a way of escape, but a holy and beautiful creation of God. This brings joy to sailors. Sailors must spend many lonely days at sea during their voyage. Therefore, they often feel very lonely and do not get a chance to see signs of life around them for days:
At last he crossed an Albatross,
The fog came steadily;
As if he were a Christian soul,
We welcomed you in the name of God.
So when they see an albatross, they feel happy and hopeful that the earth is close to them. The same thing happened to the companions of the ancient sailor. When they saw the albatross, they greeted him with joy, fed him and played with him. So the albatross brought them company. Thanks to the arrival of the albatross, they were able to escape the harsh loneliness that surrounded them. Coleridge presented this bird as a friend and companion to men.
Both poems use symbolism very skillfully. Coleridge used the technique of willing suspension of disbelief, where readers forget the real world and believe the world the poet presents is real. The plot of the poem is centered around the idea of sin-suffering-prayer-redemption. A poem with a moral sense. The sailor first committed a sin and then suffered for it. After much suffering, he prayed to God, and then God forgave him. The sailor learned his lesson and told others to show love and kindness to God’s creation. The albatross represents Jesus Christ. The sailor killed the innocent bird that brought him and his fellow sailors company and hope:
And a good southerly wind arose behind;
The Albatross followed,
And every day, for food or play,
The sea raven has arrived!
In the same way, the people of Jerusalem crucified the innocent Christ, who gave them hope for salvation. The other sailors were horrified when they realized that the sailor had killed the albatross:
And I did a hell of a thing
And it would work, alas:
I must have killed the bird
That blew me away.
Oh, wretched! they said, the bird to kill
That blew me away!
In general, the nightingale’s song is a symbol of joy and happiness. But Keats wrote this poem when he was suffering too much from his illness. Although he sought happiness through the nightingale, he knew in his heart that he would soon die. So the symbols of death and oblivion are present in this poem. Keats made numerous references to Greek mythology. With this he treated the nightingale as if it were a magical bird that no sorrow could touch. So the bird is magical and free from human suffering. Keats wished he could be like him and overcome all his pain and sadness. He is like the Buddha in his quest to eliminate sadness. Throughout his life, the Buddha sought to find a way to free himself from human suffering and achieve salvation. Keats has the same goal and in this poem his nightingale has this magical power. The only problem is that Keats knows that he is human and cannot be like the nightingale.
In ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, Keats tries to strike a good balance between feeling and thought. We can find extraordinary sensual passages like in the beginning. By using the word “sense” he also makes the readers feel this sleepy numbness.
The poet later deals with the problems of human life, as in the third stanza:
– Here, where people sit and hear each other’s groans;
Where paralysis shakes some sad last gray hair,
Where youth grows pale, ghostly thin and dies;
If you are not thinking, then you are full of sadness.
Unlike Keats, Coleridge uses the moral teachings of Christianity in The Land of the Ancient Mariner. He placed great emphasis on the concept of sin and redemption. In fact, The Age of the Ancient Mariner is like a fairy tale, which at first seems like a children’s story without any deeper meaning, but upon closer inspection, readers realize that it contains the deepest moral teachings. The moral of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is:
He who loves the most prays best
All things great and small;
For the dear God who loves us,
He created and loves everything.
Christianity teaches us the same thing: to love God and his creatures. No other religion puts so much emphasis on this kind of love. The albatross gave this love to sailors by bringing them joy and luck. Thus, the albatross is also a magical bird. This is the bird that brings good luck and fair winds to sailors. The ancient mariner acted selfishly and brutally when he killed her. He thought only of his own pleasure. He didn’t even think that he would kill an innocent bird for no reason. He didn’t lack for food, but also for kindness. He forgot that there is a god who is more powerful than anything. God certainly didn’t like that he killed the bird for no reason.
God showed the sailor that no matter how much power man has, he must not be cruel to nature. If they don’t follow humanity, they will be punished. The punishment the sailor suffered was terrible. He suffered the worst form of pain: loneliness and isolation. Human beings are social animals by nature, so being alone in a ship in an endless sea must have been a terrible thing to suffer. He often wished he would die, but he didn’t
An orphan curse would send him to hell
Spirit from on high;
But he! more horrible than that
The curse is in the eyes of the dead!
Seven days and seven nights I saw that curse
And yet I could not die.
Only after the sailor realized his sin and prayed deeply to God for forgiveness was he saved.
The very moment I could pray;
And from my neck so freely
The Albatross fell and sank
Like lead into the sea.
Coleridge was not a very religious person in his personal life, but in this poem he praised Christianity very highly. Christianity always asks its followers to ask for God’s forgiveness every day. If someone prays from the bottom of his heart, God is always ready to forgive him. The poem also shows Coleridge’s deep love for his country, England. When the sailor returned from his trip to England, he felt that he had arrived in heaven
SHE! dream of joy! it really is
Can I see the top of the lighthouse?
Is this the hill? is this the church?
Is this my own country?
In summary, the two poems are one of the greatest poems about birds in English literature. Poets used birds as symbols and associated them with their own lives. Birds are magical, but there is more to them than magic. They take us to another world – a dreamy and ideal world. The main difference between two poets is that for nightingale John Keats, the sky seems like something and has no connection with everyday human life, rather something that is beyond our ordinary life. On the other hand, ST Coleridge’s albatross is something that is related to our daily lives. The sailors fed him and played with him. He was like their only friend in the endless sea.
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