First and foremost, this poem is about the poetry of the earth. This ‘poetry’ that Keats talks about can be read variously.
The Poet of Earth: Analysis
Literally speaking, the poetry of earth indicates the various sounds found in the natural world, be it the calls of birds or beasts or insects. These natural sounds are the voices of nature; this is how nature communicates with us. The poetry of earth is then the language of the earth. At the same time, it is also about the beauty of that language. The poem is descriptive of the physical world and its natural beauty. Pastoral motifs influenced keats. It comes as no surprise that he uses pastoral images and sensibilities in this poem to express the poetry he felt existed in the natural world. He was interested not only in Hellenic and Hellenistic literature, but he was also a firm admirer of beauty in its classical sense. Hence, we see the influence of pastoral beauty in this poetry. This poem encompasses a rare unification of the beauty of nature at its best and its worst.
Figuratively taken, this poem serves as the messenger of hope. The poetry of earth is at once an emblem of beauty and endurance. The poet wishes to impart that, like the poetry of the earth, hope never dies. That no matter how harsh the trials and tribulations of life are, they can be overcome. There is beauty in even the harshest temperatures. Similarly, there is hope in the bleakest of times. You may go through the detailed summary here.
The sonnet is inherently a Romantic poem. It has all the sensibilities of the much-talked-about age. The creative energies in the poem are spread like dense foliage. Each line reverberates with the sounds of nature that burst forth in Keats’s poem. This poem is, above all, a repository of the calls of nature, the voice of the grasshopper, of the cricket, and the songs of the birds. The poem also encompasses two extreme climates, the extremely hot and the extreme cold. Summer and winter are expressed as two unbearable entities, each an imposing, strong figure that has to be fought with. The poetry of earth perhaps is akin to the poetic impulse of Keats himself.
Keats mirrors his own innermost thoughts when he expresses the immortality of poetry. The imposing figures of summer and winter can be read as the critics who taunted Keats for his youthful abandon and less than aristocratic blood. In the poem, he says that the poetry of earth will endure all harshest circumstances. He then believes that his poetry will endure the scathing remarks of the critics too. As a response to his harsh critics, he had once said, “This is a mere matter of the moment: I think I shall be among the English Poets after my death.” He believed his poetry should be remembered long after his death, just like he believed poetry could never die.
The Poetry of Earth: Poetic Devices
‘The Poetry of earth’- This is an instance of imagery. The earth is made up of various sounds, the calls of the birds and beats, the buzz of insects. These sounds are the voice of the earth. This voice is represented as the poetry of the earth.
‘the frost Has wrought a silence’- this is an instance of personification. Frost is personified as a person who brings silence in his wake. Here Frost becomes a creator of silence who makes all sounds disappear when he appears.
It’s a Petrarchan sonnet. The poem is made up of an octave and a sestet. The octave is made up of two quatrains, each following the abba rhyme scheme. And the sestet is made up of two tercets, each following the rhyme scheme, code.
The Poetry of Earth: Central Idea
The poem’s central idea is the tenacity of the grasshopper and the cricket to provide us entertainment and joy through their respective songs. Their songs are the poetry of earth, which never ceases to be, even during extreme circumstances.
The Poetry of Earth: Tone
The tone of the poem is celebratory. Keats uses his language skills to perpetuate the Romantic ideals in this poem. The poem reeks of the Romantic touch of grandeur, and it almost reads like an ode on the natural language of the earth.
The Poetry of Earth: Theme
Nature: Nature is the major theme in this sonnet. Nature is seen as a revered figure throughout this poem. It is not difficult to trace the natural world’s influence on Keats as one reads this poem. The first line begins with a declaration that the poetry of earth is never dead. This declaration is followed by Keats trying to explain why not. In the course of fourteen lines, Keats alludes to birds, the sun, trees, hedges, meadows, frost, and grassy hills. All of the aforementioned are popular motifs of a nature poem. Keats doesn’t end here; he alludes to some of these motifs and their inherent qualities or purposes; for example, he alludes to the heat of the sun, the cool shade provided by the trees, or the pleasantness of the sun a certain area of grass or weed. Last but not least, Keats uses the grasshopper and the cricket as the symbols of summer and winter, respectively.
Seasons: Summer and Winter are seen as two parallel peers who sustain the natural world. Keats posits them side by side as two parameters against which all the cycles of the natural world have to be tested. After this putting nature through the test, Keats concurs that grasshopper and the cricket are the ones that can overcome all strife, including the extreme temperatures.
Hope: both the grasshopper and the cricket are symbols of hope. They continue in their daily rituals even when other creatures cannot. They provide everyone with the hope that no matter how hard the situation is, there is always a way to overcome them. The grasshopper takes rest in some ‘pleasant weed’ to freshen itself to provide the poetry of earth for the entire natural world to listen to. The cricket finds its voice even in the midst of frost when the whole of creation finds itself silenced. Thus, hope is what constitutes the poetry of the earth.
Tenacity: the grasshopper and the cricket also symbolize tenacity. Despite extreme temperatures, they refuse to give up. They carry on their jobs as if the summer heat or the winter frost cannot stop their joy. Even when the birds faint due to the heat or all the creatures retire to their nests and/or shelter to escape the cold, the grasshopper and the cricket take it upon themselves to keep the poetry of earth alive. Thus, this poem talks of tenacity and dedication to pursue one’s passion.
Beauty: beauty is perhaps one of the most used themes in Keats’s poetry. He was an ardent believer of beauty in its classical sense. More often than not, Keats used the beauty of language to express the beauty of nature. In this poem, the poet expresses the beauty of nature through its various phases. He finds beauty in the harsh as well as the mellow side of nature. He finds beauty in both the hot summer sun and the cool shade provided by the trees. Similarly, the winter has its own beauty, as the frost spins a silence upon the earth. He also talks of the warmth in the voice of the cricket that compensates for the numbness of the cold. The beauty of nature lies in its balance.
The poem is then a message close to Keats’s heart. He believed in the immortality of poetry, beauty, and endurance of life. Keats welds together all these components in this sonnet as an inspiration to his readers and perhaps future poets like him.