Melody and Music in Keats' Poetry
1) MECHANICAL ONOMATOPOEIA:
i.e when Keats uses words whose sound directly imitates some sound that he is describing:
Ode to a Nightingale: "The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eve
2) SUBTLE ONOMATOPOEIA:
i.e when the sound texture of his verse matches or even suggests whatever he is trying to communicate - image, emotion or mood;
To Autumn: "Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind" (The light 'I' sounds and f/w consonants - it is melodically perfect)
3) EFFECT OF AN ENTIRE PASSAGE:
Beginning of Hyperion
Opening stanza of Ode to a Nightingale: 4 lines in which the monotonous, clogging and half-rhyming combinations of 'm' and 'n' nasal sounds - 'numbness', 'sense', 'hemlock', 'drunk', 'emptied', 'sunk' (along with the weighting monosyllabic words and slow, laboured movement of the rhythm) - create an exact musical equivalent of the poet's drugged, dull mood. Two sharp 'a' sounds in 'aches' and 'pains' express the momentary stabs of conscious pain in his drugged numbness. From this we emerge into a passage of marked melodic contrast, where the clear, ringing and sometimes richly intense sounds of the words perfectly correspond with the contrasting happiness of the nightingale. In 'numberless' and summer' we catch a reminiscence of the sound pattern of the opening lines, and 'numberless' in particular brings us back to 'numbness' in the opening line. This slight repetition is good because it holds the two contrasting parts of the stanza in aural unity.
4) HARSH, STRONG, DISTURBING_ MUSIC:
Hyperion: "Instead of thrones, hard flint they sat upon Couches of rugged stone, and slaty ridge Stubborn'd with iron."
5) INTERCONNECTED VOWEL SOUND:
The Eve of Saint Agnes A casement high and triple-arch'd there was, All garlanded with carven imag'ries Of fruits, and flowers, and bunches of knot-grass, And diamonded with panes of quaint device Innumerable of stains and splendid dyes, As are the tiger-moth's deep-damask'd wings; And in the midst, 'mong thoudand heraldries, And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings, A shielded scutcheon blush'd with blood of kings and queens.
The opening stanza of To Autumn with its 's', 'm',”l” alliterations has no interwoven and recurring vowel sound. The music here lies in a constant shift of melodic effect and in complete organisation of small, often contrasting echoes of sound: 'o' vowel in three opening lines: 'mellow', 'Close', 'load'- then this sound disappears. There are marked momentary alliterations "mists and mellow", "fill all:Fruit". There are small chimes of sound: 'apples' and 'thatch' 'moss'd' and 'cottage', 'ripeness' with 'vines', 'budding' with 'plump'. There is internal half-rhyme: 'sells' ‘swell' . The double 'm' sound in the last line suggests the hum of bees and the clogged, drowsy movement in sticky sweetness.
6) EXTERNAL ALLITERATION:
the chiming, recurring of consonantal sounds: To Autumn: "While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day".
7) INTERNAL ALLITERATION:
the 'l' and 'b' sounds in To Autumn: "And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn"
8) DELIBERATELY CONTRIVED ART:
alliteration produces some onomatopoeic or suggestive effect: "With beaded bubbles winking at the brim" (Ode to a Nightingale)
9) VOWEL REPETITION:
Hyperion: "healthy breath of morn" "sat grey-haired Saturn" "forest on forest" "like cloud on cloud" "Tall oaks branch-charmed by the earnest stars"
Ode on Melancholy: "And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes"
Ode on a Grecian Urn: "Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness Thou foster-child of silence and slow tine." Lamia: " A pillar'd porch, with lofty portal door" The Eve of Saint Agnes: "In the retired quiet of the night"
10) MELODIC CONTRAST:
Melodic contrasts such as those quoted above conclude & temporarily break, a passage that is rich in chiming combinations of vowels and consonants;
The Eve of Saint Agnes: "These delicates he heap'd with glowing hand On golden dishes and in baskets bright Of wreathed silver: sumptuous they stand In the retired quiet of the night, Filling the chilly room with perfume light." Here the monotone of line 4 checks what might have become an excess of melodic sweetness and richness.
11) SPEAKING STRESSES:
Sometimes speaking stresses are brought close together, especially at the end of lines, as in "Thou fóster-chíld of sílence and slów tíme," or "Máke nót your rósary of yéw-berries, Nór let the béetle, nor the déath-móth bé..”
12) ASSONANTAL RHYME:
"Nor let the Beetle nor the death moth be Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl A partner in your sorrow's mysteries; For shade to shade will come too drowsily, And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul."
13) KEATS'S AMENDMENTS:
"As though a rose should shut, and be a bud again." (The Eve of Saint Agnes) Here Keats found himself faced with two choices of melodic effect: either the full internal rhyme of 'rose' and 'close' or the assonance of 'shut' with 'bud' and with 'sunshine' of the previous line.
14) LOW, VOWELS AND DIPTHONGS
"Deep in the shady sadness of a vale
FAR sunken frog the healthy breath of MORN
FAR from the FIEry noon, and eve's one STAR
Sat grey HAIRed SatURN, quiet as a stone,
Still as the silence round about his LAIR.
FOrest on FOrest hung above his head
Like cloud on cloud. No STIR of AIR was THERE."
The syllables in bold type denote the muffled effect of this opening. An almost identical muting effect, with a considerable use of the same vowels and dipthongs is created in the first eight lines of stanza 2 of Ode to Psyche:
"0 latest BORn and loveliest vision FAR
Of all Olympus' faded hIERARchy
FAIRer than Phoebe's sapphlRE-regioned STAR,
OR Vesper, amORous glowWORm of the sky;
FAIRer than these, though temple thou hast none,
NOR altar heap'd with flowers;
NOR VIRgin-CHOIR to make delicious moan
Upon the midnight hours."