Meter in Ode to a Nightingale

Meter Examples in Ode to a Nightingale:

Ode to a Nightingale 2

"Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,..."   (Ode to a Nightingale)

Keats takes a unique approach to meter in this line. The last five syllables of the line are stressed monosyllabic words. Because these words begin—and, in several cases, end—with consonant sounds, the pace of the poem necessarily slows down. Keats uses this poetic technique to convey the process of aging. This is the section of the poem in which the speaker’s fantasy of inebriation is sobered by the realities of the world, mortality included.

"In some melodious plot..."   (Ode to a Nightingale)

As is the case with many of Keats’s odes, the poem has stanzas comprised of ten lines each. Each stanza takes the rhyme scheme of ABABCDECDE. Most of the lines follow a clean iambic pentameter, but the eighth line of each stanza has only three beats. This alteration in meter creates a sense of suspense just before the final couplet, which allows for a forceful finish to the stanza.