Nature as a Mediator in John Keats’ poem “Ode to a Nightingale” and Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall”
This research paper tries to show how John Keats’ poem “Ode to Nightingale” and Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” present the nature as a mediator between different organisms of nature itself. In Mending Wall, two neighboring men are separated by a wall they have built, which is broken by nature. Rather it makes a gap to pass through slowly and gradually which allows them to have a meeting at least once a year. On this occasion, they engage in reconstructing the wall. On the other hand, the poem Ode to Nightingale makes us realize that nature seems to be trying to mediate among human beings and more importantly between human and other organisms of nature. It also makes a deal of humankind in relation to imaginary heaven and dreadful death. This is how nature gives the idea of mediating between and among people, and entities existing in the world.
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Nature always remains as the home of millions of living beings and non-living things. It has provided them with food, shelter, affection and so on. In addition to that, nature is also playing a very significant role in keeping peace and harmony as a good mediator between and among different organisms in the world. In the poem Mending Wall, two men build a wall in every summer to separate and keep them different from one another. But the nature, as a protector and mediator, never enjoys the separation. Rather it comes to break the wall they have built between them. Nature makes the boulders spill out the man-made wall and makes human beings to pass through it. About the unwillingness of nature to see the wall between two neighbours, the poem says:
Something there that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast:[1-4]
Nature is such a power that uses various techniques to reconcile the long been detached organs of it. In the pre-historic era, all the creatures and plants were partners with common food and shelter. But when human beings left the other organisms in their natural habitat and came out to their selfish life. Human beings visit their old habitat, the forest, only for exploiting the resources protected by the rest of the fellow beings. But the nature is not happy with the selfish nature of human beings to exploit the natural resources for their commercial benefit. So, nature as a good mediator is taking the persona of the poem to the old habitat of human beings making him a mad-like. All the material interests of the persona are drawn away by nature so that he could be a part of the real happiness of the fellow beings and greenery. Because of nature’s strong mediating capacity, the persona has left the crowd of human settlement, greed for material gain and envy and become the part of the selfless nature. About the persona’s newly emerged feelings to nature the persona says:
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
. . . That thou, light-winged dyrad of the trees,
. . . Of beechen green, and shadows numberless
Singer of summer in full throated ease.[1-10]
Nature’s presence as a mediator is never seen with our naked eyes. But it is always busy breaking the ratification demarcations. It is always conscious of a human interest in showing oneself distinguished from others, so nature does not want to hurt them by openly destroying their construction which seems to be commemorating their ancestors, so nature comes invisibly and gradually makes the gap to pass through broader and broader with the intention to make them communicate. About the invisibility and silence of nature’s attempts of breaking the barriers between the two the persona says:
. . . The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; [9-12]
Now, the persona in the poem Ode to Nightingale is no longer a human shrouded by the material greed rather he is about to leave the material world and fly with the nightingale because nature seems to reconcile the long been separated human being and the other organs of nature. Now, the persona does not seem to need any vehicle, like a chariot of Bacchus, to transport him to the bird and fly with it in its happiness, the viewless wings of imagination created by nature are enough to leave the greedy material Earth and share the happiness of the real and pure nature. About the deep love of the persona to the nightingale the persona says:
Away! Away! For I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen moon is her throne,
Clustered around by all her starry fays,( . . . )[31-37]
Among the two parties in the poem Mending Wall, the persona is a bit flexible. He thinks the wall between them is unnecessary. The persona has apple trees and his neighbor has pine trees. But the neighbor of the persona always wants a wall between them simply to follow tradition without any justifiable reason. The persona tries to persuade him but is never persuaded. Since he is unable to persuade his neighbor, nature is relentlessly attempting to make him tired of breaking the wall every year. But, he is a tireless man and always attends the place in every spring to repair the wall to be separated from his neighbor and repeatedly says- “ Good fences make good neighbors”. The persona is not satisfied with the idea of separating his neighbor with the wall and says:
`There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors”[23-27]
Everywhere nature is busy trying to mediate between conflicting sides and pulling both the sides to the point of reconciliation. In the poem Ode to Nightingale, the persona, the destroyer, and exploiter, is reconciled to the other organisms of the nature that is the nightingale. The reconciliation has made the persona understand the continuity and immortality of the other organs of nature. It is possible because of the relentless initiation of nature itself to bring all its organs under its umbrella. The persona finally understands the value of natural organisms and praises as follows:
Thou wast not born for death, immortal birds!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient day by emperor and clown:[61-64]
In the poem Mending Wall, nature is partly successful in mediating a modern and flexible man and another traditional and rigid man. They were already separated by the wall between them, but because of nature’s frequent initiation, they can converse at least in every spring. If there had not been natures mediation, they would not have seen one another once a year. So, because of nature’s mediation both of them are able to see one another though the purpose of the gathering is not positive and the persona shares his unhappy experiences as follow:
In each hand, like an old-stone savage man armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well.
He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbor’.[40-45]
To sum up, both the poems, Mending Wall by Robert Frost and Ode to Nightingale by John Keats, present nature as the mediator between different conflicting parties whether be living or non-living. Mending Wall presents nature mediating two separated man half- reconciled and meeting at least once a year though they are unknown to the positive side of their meeting. On the other hand, in Ode to Nightingale a human being, always understood as a greedy animal for commercial benefit is drawn closer to nature is able to understand the fact that different organs of nature are more pleasing and important than the momentary financial gain from the overexploitation of nature. So nature seems a good mediator among different conflicting sides of nature itself.
A critical analysis of Faulkner’s short story ‘A Rose for Emily’: A Challenge to Nature and Society is destructive.
Keats, John. “Ode to Nghtingale ”. El;ements of Literature. Nancy R. Comley, et al.4th ed. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009.1-64. Print
Frost, Robert. “ Mending Wall”. El;ements of Literature. Nancy R. Comley, et al.4th ed. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009.1-45. Print