O Level Literature in English 2010-2012
John Keats “On a Grasshopper and the Cricket”
23rd February 2012
The poem “On the Grasshopper and the Cricket” by John Keats, reflects on the poet’s belief that the beauty of nature never ends. It depicts that the two animals; the grasshopper and the cricket, although seemingly different in many ways, are oddly similar. The poet stresses on the immortality of poetry which is demonstrated by two opposite seasons i.e. poetry continues to survive and lasts forever regardless of the scorching summer and the freezing winter. Following the iambic parameter, Keats poem is a Petrachan sonnet which is evident through the familiar structure and fourteen-verse arrangement. The poem is divided into an octave and a sestet, each relating to different themes. “A voice will run” shows that even when the world is exhausted by heat and is drowsy with sleep, the sounds of nature never really cease. They continue to make their impact through one thing or the other.
In this poem, a unique arrangement of the lines is to be found. In order to place an emphasis on the theme of comparison and contrast, the author places certain lines one after the other, e.g. “hot sun” and “cooling trees”, “wrought a silence” and “there shrills”, etc. All these lines with opposing images are meant to continue to place importance on the theme that although these things are different, yet they continue to exist along with each other. Furthermore, the poet also makes use of the natural pauses and line endings in his poem to give more emphasis on certain words. Also, in this way, the author I able to relate the words at the end of the lines or at pauses with others that carry the same meaning, e.g. “luxury” and “delights”.
As we come towards the sestet, the opening line sounds archaic and wiser as compared to the first line of the poem. In the sestet, the subject of the poem changes from the grasshopper to the cricket. Over here we see another example of contrasting ideas as the grasshopper is a fun loving, carefree creature while the cricket appears to be the more responsible and serious of the two. Thus, if viewed figuratively, Keat is suggesting that although the beauty of life is easily recognized in the youth, there is also plenty of beauty in old age.
At the beginning of the sestet, the same line as the beginning of the poem is repeated, the only difference being that it is rephrased. The echo of the words “never” lays even more emphasis on the fact that the call of nature is never-ending and is ever living. This emphasis is compounded by the fact that the repeated phrase ends with the word “never”, thus laying more emphasis onto it.
In the octave of the poem, the liveliness of the grasshopper is depicted. Although summer is at its peak with scorching heat, the grasshopper seems unaffected by it all, living only for the present. As the grasshopper is fond of warmth, he uses the season to his advantage, his life filled with delights and generally leading a carefree life. In the octave he is to be seen frolicking “from hedge to hedge” and dwelling in a “summer’s luxury”, emphasizing all the more on the buoyant and jaunty mood of the octave. Quite on the contrary, the sestet forms the image of winter along with its bitter cold and loneliness. Thus on the whole, summer tends to be more poetic and cheerful, while winter is harsher and gloomier, both on different ends, neither surviving without the other. Thus the nature of beauty lives on.