On the Grasshopper and the Cricket

Explore how Keats vividly portrays the never-ending pleasures that Nature has to offer.

In his poem On the Grasshopper and the Cricket, John Keats widely portrays the smorgasbord of pleasures that Nature has to offer- reinforcing the idea that Nature is constant, vital, and of paramount importance.

Even in the first line of his poem, he demonstrates the many pleasure of Nature: ‘The poetry of the earth is never dead’. When taken literally, this illustrates the lively vitality of the earth- it will never fade away- it will always be there, assuring us, supporting us. However, it can also depict the musical aspect of Nature; it is a metaphorical comparison to a concert- perhaps referring to the ‘cricket’s song’ and the voice of the grasshopper. Nature is always providing us with music and song if we care to take a moment to listen- this eschews materialism and reminds us of all the pleasures Nature has to offer. The sentence also portrays Nature in a different light- it praises the ‘poetry’ of the Earth- and poetry often invokes positive connotations of beauty, love, and romance- it demonstrates that Nature is filled with beauty. That beauty is varied and undefined- Nature’s allure is different from the splendor of the modern world- once again eschewing materialism. This instills a strong sense of love for Nature, and the Earth’s unique beauty- reinforcing Keat’s view of the constancy and vitality of Mother Earth. This is also shown later on in the poem, when there is repetition of this first line, albeit phrased differently- ‘the poetry of the earth is ceasing never’- reiterating the idea that Nature offers never-ending pleasure, and that it is far from ephemeral.

Keats alludes to the cycle of seasons in his poem to reinforce the idea that Nature is constantly changing and offering more, yet is always there. He starts off with the grasshopper: ‘a voice will run’, ‘with his delights’- this represents the summer and the delights it has to offer. The grasshopper’s voice ‘runs’- this personification makes it all the more endearing to the reader- we can relate to the overwhelming joy of running ‘from hedge to hedge’, and the immense satisfaction and sense of freedom we attain from it. The grasshopper’s ‘voice’ reminds us of Earth’s poetry and the song, as well as offers us a feeling of exuberance, urging us to participate in the joyous song that Nature has composed. In the next half of the poem, Keat depicts the winter- but even at night, in the cold frost, Nature offers reassurance in the ‘cricket’s song’. The cricket’s song reminds us of summer and the ‘grasshopper’s song’, reiterating the fact that summer will always return and Nature will never leave us. The ‘song’ brings joy and light in the darkest and chilliest of nights, never forsaking us for the cold winter. This cycle gives us the sense that Nature is always there, offering us hope at all times.

Keats writes this poem in a Petrarchan (Italian sonnet) form (actually in a competition against a friend challenging him to a poem about Nature), a form of poetry associated with love and romance. Using this form to write about poetry shows how much love and affection Nature has to offer and perhaps influences us to return this love in kind. The use of the sonnet form also demonstrates Keat’s own belief in the love that Nature has to offer, and his own love for it- reiterating the idea of Nature’s perpetual love and sacrifice.

Through his use of metaphorical devices, allusions, and overall form of poetry, Keats reinforces the notion of Nature’ eternal pleasures and ever-constant presence.


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