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Both John Keats in Ode to a Nightingale and Samuel Taylor Coleridge in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner use a bird as a central motif of their poem However these creatures are definitely not birds of a feather their function within their respective works reflects the vastly different themes of the two works themselves as well as the psyches of the men who wrote them This paper will discuss both Keats and Coleridges symbolic use of birds and analyze what they represent within their differing contexts John Keats Ode to a Nightingale is a poem of both despair and strength It was written less than a year after the death of the poets beloved brother Tom from a long wasting bout with tuberculosis Keats himself was not in good health either he would die of tuberculosis himself less than two years later and he had almost sole care of his brother in Toms last days In addition the orphaned Keats suffered from acute financial worries his finances being tied up by the trustee of the family will who considered Keats a wastrel This plunged the poet into a demeaning cycle of borrowing from and taking up residence with supportive literary friends Keats scholar Fred Inglis adds that Anxiety over money disrupted Keats life from his childhood onwards and the deprivation resulting from his poverty must have accelerated his deterioration and shortened his life even more Inglis 37 His monetary wants were especially acute after Toms death and at the time of the on set of his own illness All of this serves to explain the profound atmosphere of gloom that surrounds Ode To A Nightingale Keats gives us four lines of the deepest depression -- and suddenly the nightingale sings Inglis quotes DH Lawrences comments on this poem in particular and nightingales in general He the nightingale is the noisiest most inconsiderate most obstreperous and jaunty bird in the whole kingdom of
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