To A Nightingale A Conversational Poem Summary

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In this essay, I will explore Charlotte Smith’s ‘To a Nightingale’ and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Nightingale; A Conversational Poem Written in April, 1798’. These two poems are in many ways very similar to each other as they both cover the subject of the nightingale’s song and the connotations of night. However, there are significant differences. Smith maintains the ‘melancholy strain’[C:21] of ‘many a poet’[C:22] in depicting the nightingale’s song. Yet, though Coleridge acknowledges this conceit, he also aims to subvert it claiming that ‘in nature there is nothing melancholy’[C:12]. This highlights the poets’ differences in tone. For Smith, the bird is an image of ‘sweet sorrow’[S:3] whilst Coleridge hears a celebration of life in the …show more content…
Even though Coleridge maintains the iambic pentameter of its lines, ‘The Nightingale’ emulates natural speech linking it to the subtitle ‘A Conversational Poem’. The poem also has named auditors, ‘my Friend, and my Friend’s Sister’[C:39], which are recognised as William and Mary Wordsworth, to whom he addresses directly. By ‘Farewell, O Warbler’[C:69] he converts to addressing the nightingale which further adds to the many conversations within the poem. These fluid dialogues highlight the continuous flow of thought mirroring the nightingale’s constant song throughout the …show more content…
Coleridge’s use of reported speech allows him to challenge Milton’s ‘most musical, most melancholy’[C:12] construction of the nightingale as he expresses this interpretation as something unoriginal. He ‘seeks to convince us that within its melodies, as within all aspects of nature […] there may be found not sorrow but joy’ as the poet’s song ‘should make all nature lovelier, and itself |be lov’d like nature’[C:32-3]. The bird’s song is not mourning the lost day but cherishing the night. To Coleridge, the nightingale’s song speaks of ‘love |and joyance’[C:41-2] which invites us to think of the night as pleasurable – ‘we shall find | a pleasure in the dimness of the stars’[C:9-10]. But, Coleridge’s poem is also celebrating the nightingale’s ability to bring the night and day together. Whilst its song is confined to the night, the meaning that song creates for the individual can be carried into the day. When he describes the uninhabited castle, he says that he ‘never elsewhere in one place I knew | so many nightingales’[C:54-5]. The song of these nightingales stirs the ‘air with such an harmony |that should you close your eyes, you might almost |forget it was not day’[C:61-3] showing that their song is not lamenting the day but bringing it into the

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