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John Keats' "In drear-nighted December"

Poetry became my passion after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class circa 1962.

Introduction and Text of "In drear-nighted December"

Each stanza of John Keats' poem consists of eight lines; the rime scheme is unique and must be counted over the entire poem to appreciate the technical skill employed: ABABCCCD AEACFFFD GHGHIIID. The reader will note that the final words in each stanza rime, an unusual touch that enhances the mood of the poem by unifying its suggestions. The dominant rhythm of iambic hexameter also contributes to the melancholy of the poem.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

In drear-nighted December

In drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy tree,
Thy branches ne’er remember
Their green felicity—
The north cannot undo them
With a sleety whistle through them
Nor frozen thawings glue them
From budding at the prime.

In drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy brook,
Thy bubblings ne’er remember
Apollo’s summer look;
But with a sweet forgetting,
They stay their crystal fretting,
Never, never petting
About the frozen time.

Ah! would ‘twere so with many
A gentle girl and boy—
But were there ever any
Writh’d not of passed joy?
The feel of not to feel it,
When there is none to heal it
Nor numbed sense to steel it,
Was never said in rime.

Reading of Keats' "In drear-nighted December"

Commentary

John Keats' poem, "In drear-nighted December," dramatizes the constancy of things in nature—a tree and a brook—while showing how differently the human heart behaves.

First Stanza: Musing on a Tree

In drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy tree,
Thy branches ne’er remember
Their green felicity—
The north cannot undo them
With a sleety whistle through them
Nor frozen thawings glue them
From budding at the prime.

The speaker begins by addressing a "Too happy, happy tree." He muses on the tree's memory as he assumes that the tree does not recall summer, a time of green leaves. He asserts that the branches likely do not remember their "green felicity." The speaker thus asserts that the green leaves were the cause for happiness in the tree. Without the leaves, the tree should possibly lose its happiness or its felicitous state of greenness.

The speaker then asserts that it does not matter the bitterness of winter, in spring those same branches will once again start to bud and again produce that happy greenness of leaves. The cold "north cannot undo them," and the ice that freezes them cannot destroy their creative abilities. Their happiness does not depend upon things they may lose.

Second Stanza: Musing on a Frozen Brook

In drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy brook,
Thy bubblings ne’er remember
Apollo’s summer look;
But with a sweet forgetting,
They stay their crystal fretting,
Never, never petting
About the frozen time.

The speaker then converses with the frozen brook. Just as the tree did not recall its own better condition in summer, the brook also does not remember its summer state. And like the tree, it is a "happy, happy brook." The "bubblings" of the brook forget about summer and happily go on bubbling even through winter through the ice, never complaining "[a]bout the frozen time."

The brook continues to flow without complaint, without disturbing it surroundings with melancholy. It continues its only occupation, and the human speaker interprets such persistence as happiness.

Third Stanza: Philosophizing on Possibility

Ah! would ‘twere so with many
A gentle girl and boy—
But were there ever any
Writh’d not of passed joy?
The feel of not to feel it,
When there is none to heal it
Nor numbed sense to steel it,
Was never said in rime.

Finally, the speaker begins to philosophize his musing to the possibility of human beings behaving as the tree and brook in winter in the face of their melancholy times when they must endure loss. The speaker through a rhetorical question suggests that humans do not confront their times of loss with evenmindedness. They "writhe" when their joy passes them by.

The speaker then proffers the strange and inaccurate claim that poetry has not been composed on the issue of how it feels "To know the change and feel it, / When there is none to heal it, / Nor numbed sense to steal it." The speaker, no doubt, is suggesting that no solution to the problem is commonly noted, that there is no earthly remedy for the loss of "passed joy." But, of course, poetry is filled with melancholic ponderings of such sadness.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is the theme of John Keats' poem, “In drear-nighted December”?

Answer: "In drear-nighted December," dramatizes the constancy of things in nature—a tree and a brook—while showing how differently the human heart behaves.

Question: What is the rhyme scheme in Keats' "In drear-nighted December"?

Answer: The rime scheme is ABABCCCD AEACFFFD GHGHIIID.

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Question: What does "drear-nighted December" stand for?

Answer: It is another way of expressing the description of the December night: "on a dreary night in December."

Question: What is the theme of the Keats poem, "In drear-nighted December"?

Answer: John Keats' poem, "In drear-nighted December," dramatizes the constancy of things in nature—a tree and a brook—while showing how differently the human heart behaves.

Question: What is the theme of John Keats poem,"In drear-nighted December"?

Answer: John Keats' poem, "In drear-nighted December," dramatizes the constancy of things in nature—a tree and a brook—while showing how differently the human heart behaves.

Question: In John Keat's poem, why are the trees happy in spite of gloomy December?

Answer: The speaker asserts that the green leaves were the cause for happiness in the tree.

Question: What is an allusion?

Answer: A literary allusion is a reference to an earlier literary work. Writers employing that device assume that their readers will recognize the work to which the allusion is aimed and therefore also understand the significance of it employment.

Question: What is the meter in Keats' "In drear-nighted December"?

Answer: The dominant rhythm meter of Keats' "In drear-nighted December" is iambic hexameter.

Question: What does the speaker in the poem "In Drear-Nighted December" express?

Answer: The speaker in John Keats' poem, "In drear-nighted December," is dramatizing the constancy of things in nature—a tree and a brook—while showing how differently the human heart behaves.

Question: What allusion is referenced in John Keats' poem?

Answer: There are no discernible allusions in this poem. The speaker refers to the sun as "Apollo" but that does not constitute an "allusion."

Question: What is the allusion “In Drear Nighted December”?

Answer: There are no allusions in this poem.

Question: Is "In Drear-Nighted December" an example of a sonnet?

Answer: Keats' poem "In drear-nighted December" is a lyric poem but not a sonnet.

Question: What's the volta “In Drear-nighted December”?

Answer: The "volta" is associated with sonnets. Keats' “In drear-nighted December” is not a sonnet. Thus your question is based on a false premise.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on December 29, 2019:

Thank you, Christo Snyman! Keats is fascinating, especially because of his being so accomplished at such an early age. He died of tuberculosis at age 25, yet he had been publishing during the last four years of his life. Quite a talented young artist!

Christo Snyman from Morris Plains NJ on December 28, 2019:

Interesting analysis of the poem. Thank you!

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