28 March 2013
An Explication on the Interconnectedness of Joy and Melancholy This poem dramatizes the conflict between joy and melancholy, and the fact that the two are inseparable: to experience joy to the fullest, we must also experience melancholy to the fullest. It is written in iambic pentameter; with stanzas one and two following an ababcdecde rhyme scheme, while the third stanza follows the rhyme scheme of ababcdedce. The poem possesses a logical structure. The first stanza tells us not to try to escape pain, but instead, as the second stanza explains, embrace the true beauty of nature and of human experience. The third stanza states that in order for one to experience pure joy, they must also experience the sorrow that beauty and joy will eventually die off. This explication will focus on the second and beginning four lines of the third stanza of Ode on Melancholy. Throughout the poem, Keats uses a great deal of concrete imagery to engage the reader, and several lines within the poem suggest that the speaker is saying more than what he seems to say literally. For instance, in lines one through four, Keats is painting a picture for the reader while using personification: “When the melancholy fit shall fall / Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud” (11-12). The placement of the word ‘fit’ in this first line is brilliant in introducing melancholy to his audience. By Keats saying that melancholy comes in a fit, he is suggesting that melancholy is unpredictable; you never really know when it will strike, like a fit. A detail that can easily be overlooked in line twelve is that he specifically states the rain is coming from heaven. In all interpretations of the word, heaven is a positive place, but the speaker is suggesting that melancholy itself comes from heaven. The contrast in positivity and negativity used here is important to establish the first connection between joy and melancholy.
In line twelve, Keats is personifying the cloud, giving it the human capability of weeping, which of course is a popular action when one is struck with sadness. The speaker then goes on to say that the sadness (which is represented by the weeping rain from the clouds) falls from heaven atop the flowers, “And hides the green hill in an April shroud” (14). Once again, Keats is meaning more than he is actually saying. The sadness of the rain and the beauty of the flowers represent two extremes, joy and melancholy. He describes the flowers the rain has fallen upon as ‘droop-headed’, which figuratively represents sadness. This is not all Keats wanted the speaker to accomplish with the imagery of the droop-headed flowers, however. Could this possibly be an allusion to the upcoming stanza where he states that joy and melancholy are so interrelated that you cannot experience one without experiencing the other? If so, the droop-headed flower is a perfect representation of the relationship between melancholy and joy. The beauty (joy) of the flower is