1. What are some of the recurring motifs that appear throughout the six odes? Given the chronological problems with the usual ordering of the odes (“Indolence,” often placed first in the sequence, was one of the last odes to be written), to what extent do you think the odes should be grouped as a unified sequence?
2. Taken together, do the odes tell a “story,” or do they simply develop a theme? Do you think the speaker is the same in each ode?
3. How does the “Ode on Indolence” anticipate the themes and images of the other five poems? Given the speaker’s later confrontations with Love, Ambition, and Beauty—as well as with such themes as mortality and the creative imagination—does the conclusion of the Indolence ode seem ironic?
4. In what ways is “Ode to Psyche” different from the other odes? How do these differences affect the poem’s attempt to describe the creative imagination? Why might the speaker want to use his imagination for Psyche’s worship?
5. From Psyche’s bower to the nightingale’s glade to the warm luxury of Autumn, the odes contain some of the most beautiful sensory language in English poetry. But many of the odes intentionally limit the senses they inhabit. With particular reference to “Nightingale” (which suppresses sight) and “Grecian Urn” (which suppresses every sense but sight), how do the odes create an abundance of believable sensation even as they limit it?
6. The odes are full of paradoxical and self-contradictory ideas—the attribution of human experience to the frozen figures on the urn, for instance. But the “Ode on Melancholy” builds its entire theme on an apparent paradox—that pleasure and pain are intimately connected and that sadness rests at the core of joy. How does the language of “Melancholy” strengthen that sense of paradox? What does it mean for trophies to be cloudy, pleasure to be aching, a lover’s anger to be soothing, and “wakeful anguish” a thing to be desired?
7. On its surface, the ode “To Autumn” seems to be little more than description, an illustration of a season. But underneath its descriptive surface, “To Autumn” is one of the most thematically rich of all the odes. How does Keats manage to embody complex themes in such an apparently simple poem?
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