THE CONFIDENCE OF JOHN KEATS's WRITING IN 1819 WAS ACCOMPANIED by continuing uncertainty about the moral office of poetry.
Most of the more ambitious texts of Keats's great year interrogate their own imaginative logic in some way and many of them, Keats critics can attest, expressly seek to understand how a poet can in fact qualify as "a sage; / A humanist, physician to all men." (1) It should occasion no surprise, consequently, that in "Ode to a Nightingale," the nightingale's beautiful song both ravishes the poet's senses and fills him with disquietude.
As he is a seeker of beauty he finds beauty abounds.
He gets the scent of ‘white hawthorn’, ‘the pastoral eglantine’ and ‘Fast fading violets’ and that of musk-rose, ‘full of dewy wine’.
What solace can Keats's poem or any poem offer to the victims of a world "Where but to think is to be full of sorrow" (27)?
In addressing such questions, the procedure of "Ode to a Nightingale" becomes historicist in James Chandler's sense of the term: as a historicist exercise, the Ode is unavoidably concerned with its cultural modernity, and concerned to investigate that modernity by placing it in dialogic interplay with past texts and discourses.
Finally, by the help of the poetic imagination, he makes himself able to fly in the world of the Nightingale.
In the darkness of the forest the nightingale sings spontaneously his world is one of “shadow numberless and verdurous glooms’.
He has drunk in the rich music of the Nightingale’s song; his whole being is full of it.
Being an escapist Keats wants to throw of the burden of self consciousness and sinks gradually into the world of imagination.