Bright Star by John Keats – Readings and Imagery

“Bright Star” is a Shakespearean sonnet with a Volta present after the eighth line. The poem is written in the form of one long sentence, perhaps symbolic of a star’s everlasting nature. The poem is made up of three quatrains and a rhyming couplet. “Bright Star” has a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFEFGG.

“Bright Star” by John Keats, is able to express several different readings. One reading can be that Keats is expressing a more sensual idea about how he wants to be in the height of sexual pleasure for all of time.

However, the more apparent and overall more romantic reading is that of the poet’s desire to be like a star in that is unmoving and eternal. At the beginning of the poem, the persona talks about how he wishes to be “…steadfast as [a star]…” conveying his desire to be unchanging and everlasting. He then goes on to say that though he wishes he were unmoving like the stars, he does not want to exist alone up in the sky, always “Watching, with eternal lids apart”.

Keats would rather be “Awake for ever” and “Pillowed upon my fair love’s ripening breast”. These lines convey the persona’s reason for wanting an everlasting existence – so that he can be with his love for all time. Unfortunately these two desires of being unmoving and for ever in love can not coexist, as to love he must be human, and not an everlasting being such as the star. The persona reveals his awareness of this during the last line of the poem, where he seems to see only one other possibility and that is to “swoon to death”.

“Bright Star” has a melancholic tone, expressed through his desire to experience a life that never moves forward, while forever experiencing love, passion and sensuality. The impossibility of this desire is effective in conveying the tone.

The use of imagery is unusual in that Keats dismisses many of the star’s more apparent qualities and instead focuses on its unchanging nature. Keats uses imagery such as “Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores/ Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask/ Of snow upon the mountains and the moors” in order to convey his meaning. He is successful in creating beautiful imagery of the natural forces on earth to enable readers to understand the sadness he would feel if he were to be a star, gazing down at the earth and its beauty, but never being able to experience the wonders the world has to offer. The imagery of the line “The moving waters at their priestlike task” involves the observation of life’s great spirituality.

This and other lines such as “Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores” are able to successfully convey the spiritual aspects of life that are tied to the earth and which he could never possess as a star. Also, Keats is able to create a feeling of romance and passion when describing his loved one, “Pillowed upon my fair love’s ripening breast/ To feel for ever its soft fall and swell/ Awake for ever in a sweet unrest/ Still, to hear her tender taken breath”. Keats paints a perfect picture of the way he feels for this woman, in that if he is not enabled to live forever, he will die content to simply love her.

I understand Keats’ longing to be everlasting, as I know that he was dying at the time “Bright Star” was written. Personally, I think that the poem was magnificently written and is able to effectively convey passionate feelings to the reader. “Bright Star” stirs deep emotions, especially when the writer’s context is known. The poem holds romantic aspects to it as well as being a Romantic poem, which I find appealing. Overall, it is my opinion that “Bright Star” was written masterfully and holds a very beautiful message about life, love and passion.

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