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"O, Solitude!" by John Keats

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Katie DeFonzo

on 5 November 2013

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Transcript of "O, Solitude!" by John Keats

O Solitude
by John Keats

Meter and Rhyme
The rhyme scheme of the poem is abba abba cddc dc.

The poem is a sonnet containing fourteen lines and is a form of the Petrarchian or Italian sonnet.

The poem is written in iambic pentameter.

Keats must sometimes use hypens in order to ensure that the final words of certain lines rhyme and that a line contains the appropriate number of syllables.
The word "refined'' is shortened to "refin'd'' so that it more clearly rhymes with "mind'' (10-11).
The word "amongst'' is shortened to "'mongst'' so that the line will contain ten syllables and the use of an unpleasant vowel sound can be avoided.
Lines 1-8
In the first eight lines of the poem, Keats explains that he would prefer to be alone in a place that is close to nature than in a place that has been altered by humans.
Lines 9-14
In the final lines of the poem, Keats reflects that he would enjoy being separated from society if he could be with one other person who shares his mindset.
The first eight lines and the final six lines examine two different choices that are presented to Keats.
In the first eight lines, Keats considers where he would most like to be alone.
In the final six lines, being alone becomes optional and Keats considers the possibility of solitude with a single companion.

O SOLITUDE! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,—
Nature’s observatory—whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell, 5
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
’Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.
But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind, 10
Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.

In lines 10 to 12, Keats describes the pleasure that he hopes to find when speaking with other people.

Beginning in the middle of line 12, Keats extends his statement to be a reflection of the nature of the human experience: namely, that all humans crave companionship.

Keats uses a semi-colon in the middle of line twelve when he transitions from discussing himself to humanity as a whole. Here, the semi-colon is used to show the close connection between both parts of Keats' statement, and it helps to make Keats' comparison between himself and other people more apparent.
Keats uses imagery to illustrate the contrast between the two places he describes.

The man-made buildings in the poem are described as being in a "jumbled heap", and this implies that Keats finds little comfort in such places because there is little harmony there (2).
After Keats describes the buildings as "murky'', he compares the "steep'', or raised area, where he desires to go to "nature's observatory" (3-4).
While the individual buildings are difficult for Keats to make out because of what he perceives as their disorder, Keats can clearly see all that is below from his viewpoint on the steep.
The swells of the river in the valley are likened to "crystal'' (5). Crystals are shiny and clear, and this image of clarity further contrasts the natural imagery Keats uses with the image of buildings and the inhabited world.
Keats personifies solitude in these lines, directly addressing this state and refering to it as "thee''.

Keats speaks to solitude as if it were a trusted companion, and the polite requests that he makes are indicative of a tender relationship between two people.

He uses the word "let'' to begin these requests in lines 2 and 6.
it not be among the jumbled heap / Of murky buildings'' (2-3).
me thy vigils keep / ’Mongst boughs pavillion’d'' (6-7).

By capitalizing the word "solitude'' in the first line and using an exclamation point after addressing solitude, Keats infuses the above requests with a sense of slight desperation and forcefulness, thereby emphasizing his preference for proximity to nature.

Addressing solitude is a contradiction, since the state of solitude in itself implies that a person is alone.

This contradiction introduces irony into the poem. In these lines, Keats is discussing where he would most prefer to be alone; yet this personification of solitude makes it seem impossible for him to be alone. Regardless of where is, he will still "dwell'' with solitude (1).
In these lines, Keats also mentions several specific plants and animals: a deer, a "wild'' bee and a fox-glove plant (7-8).

Keats continues to emphasize the beauty of nature here.
He describes the boughs of the trees as "pavillion'd'', which implies that they can provide him with shelter.
He uses the word "swift'' to describe the deer and capture the grace of the animal.

The animals that Keats describes only interact with each other, as seen when the deer startles the bee. Keats is merely an observer in these lines, keeping solitude's "vigils'' (6).

The word "vigil'' evokes the image of watchful waiting, and this temporarily creates a somewhat somber mood. Keats forced to enjoy the beauty of nature on his own in these lines.
At the beginning of these lines, Keats restates the same idea using synonyms. He writes, "Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind, / Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d" (9-10).
Converse and words
Innocent and Refin'd
Mind and Thoughts
Keats is expressing his belief that a person's inner goodness will be evident in his or her speech.

Keats also uses synonyms to emphasize the happiness that can be found in solitude with another person.
"gladly'' (9)
"pleasure'' (12)
"highest bliss'' (13)

The use of such positive words implies that Keats believes pleasurable and meaningful conversation is necessary and beneficial for the human person.
Keats includes only two periods in this poem.
One is used to end the poem.
The other is found at the end of line 8.

The period within the poem signals a definitive shift in Keats' focus.

The word following the first period is a conjunction (but). Keats could have used a semi-colon instead and made the poem a single statement. His decision to use a period here seems to have been a deliberate attempt on his part to emphasize the distinction between the two choices that he considers throughout the poem.
Rhyme Scheme
The words in the first eight lines of the poem rhyme with either "dwell'' (dell, swell, and bell) or "heap'' (steep, keep, and leap).

The words in the final six lines of the poem rhyme with either "thee'' (be and flee) or "mind'' (refin'd and human-kind).

Because there is no common rhyme between these groups of lines, a further distinction is made between them and, by extension, the ideas that Keats discusses in them.
Keats likens a person's words to "images'' of that person's thoughts (11).

In line 9, Keats uses a synonym for the word "image'' - "scene'' - to describe the natural imagery in the first eight lines of the poem.

The natural scenes that Keats describes can be "trace[d]'' (9). However, it would be difficult to trace an image of a person's thoughts, which are intangible.

While nature appeals primarily to a person's senses, words are the means by which people relate to one another.
Diction & Comparison
The only time Keats uses the word "my'' thoughout the poem occurs when he mentions the pleasure of his soul (12).

In the first eight lines of the poem, Keats uses the possessive pronoun "its'' when referring to a dell, an inanimate object.
"Its flowery slopes'' (5)
"its river’s crystal swell'' (5)

Keats recognizes that while the beauty of nature does not belong to any one person, the joy that he finds in conversation with someone else is uniquely his own.
Keats also compares the two people who choose to be alone together, referring to them as "kindred spirits'' (14).

Although Keats here writes about solitude's "haunts'', this arouses little fear in those who "flee'' there simply because when they are together, they are each able to enjoy the companionship of a like-minded individual, perhaps a soul mate.
In "O, Solitude!'', Keats extols the beauty of the natural world and expresses his belief that spending time alone in the midst of nature can bring a person joy. However, Keats comes to the conclusion that the time one spends alone can be enhanced with the presence of a single companion. The time one spends with another person is an invaluable part of the human experience that is lovely in its own way.
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