“Forlorn! the very word is like a bell/ To toll me back from thee to my sole self!” explain the lines

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
         To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
         As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf. (Lines 70-74)

These lines are extracted from the concluding stanza of Keats’ poem Ode to a Nightingale. Here Keats admits his failure to enjoy for long the beauty of the nightingale’s song, that has kept him long spell-bound.

To Keats, a thing of beauty is a joy forever. The song of the nightingale, in his concept, has an immortal beauty and so the joy given by it never ends. Nevertheless, the poet sadly perceives that this beauty cannot be enjoyed for long by him. The spell is soon broken. The poet is brought back from his romantic imagination to the sordid reality of his gloomy, real life. The very word ‘forlorn’, used in connection with the princess of the fairyland, reminds him of his own forlorn and sad lot. His life is lonely, with despair and distress all around him. It is hardly possible for him to forget his own hard existence and to become one with the beauty of the nightingale’s song. The real world is rather hard. It does not at all allow him to forget his dull and dreary life in romantic fancies. So he cannot long keep himself fascinated in the romance of the bird.

Keats’s lines are tinged with sadness and bear out, like Shelley’s, his own personal despondency. The expression also indicates the transience of human enjoyment of beauty amid hard earthly realities, although a thing of beauty, like the bird’s song, is a joy for ever.

Also read; Keats’s Concept of Beauty as Expressed in his Odes// Beauty is truth, truth beauty

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