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Analysis of ‘On the Grasshopper and Cricket’ by John Keats

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On the Grasshopper and Cricket

John Keats born in 1795 was considered as the main poet of the Romantic Movement. He shared this space with Lord Byron and P.B. Shelly. The works of Keats were published just four years before his death which was in 1821. He was only 25 when he died. Most of his poems were written between 1814 and 1819. Keats was not appreciated while he was alive but after his death all his critics accepted that he was a great romantic poet. Keats was a romantic poet but he was not sentimental about it. He defied poetic form and made his own distinctive literary configuration. His odes were the most read poems and he wrote odes which had different themes.

‘On the Grasshopper and Cricket’ was written in 1816. John Keats observes that the beauty of nature is continuous irrespective of the seasons. He has not used visual imagery to describe this continuity of beauty; instead he takes into account the song of two insects, grasshopper and cricket. He starts off by stating that ‘The Poetry of earth is never dead’ and then goes on to prove his statement. It is hot summer and the birds cannot bear the heat and they have hid in the trees and even stopped singing. It was silent around but there was one who kept the summer song alive and that was the grasshopper. He continues singing, enjoying life and if he is tired he ‘He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.’

The second stanza portrays a scene in winter. The first line‘The poetry of earth is ceasing never’ is reiteration of the first line of the first stanza. Then the silence of winter is mentioned. The frost has brought in silence all around. But this cold silence is broken by an insect’s song. The cricket which is also a victim of the cold seeks warmth, near the stove, inside the house. When it is warm the cricket sings its song. The listeners of this song in half drowsiness think it to be the cricket’s song.

And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,

The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.

This poem is about the change in seasons and each season is different but Keats sees poetry in each season and he tries to bring a likeness from summer to winter using the song of the two insects the grasshopper and the cricket. Both are nature’s tireless and loving force. The two stanzas begin with the unifying thought and then the difference between the two seasons is highlighted and then leaves it to the reader to see the similarity in the strain of the cricket and grasshopper. It is a fourteen Petrarchan sonnet divided into two stanzas. The rhyme scheme is ABBAABBA for the octet, eight line stanza, and CDECDE for the sestet, six lines stanza. Iamb is the use of one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. When five such metrical foot, is used in a line then the meter is said to be iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter is used in most of the lines in the poem ‘On the Grasshopper and Cricket’. The imagery used by Keats is very vivid as always. Romantic poets wrote about nature and this poem by Keats is an outstanding poem, celebrating the ‘poetry of earth’.

On the Grasshopper and Cricket