The poem On the Grasshopper and Cricket is a sonnet by John Keats. The poem was composed in the December of 1816 when the poet was twenty-one years of age. It was published posthumously in ‘The Poetical Works of John Keats’ in 1884.
Central Idea of On the Grasshopper and Cricket:
The central idea of the poem is the tenacity of the grasshopper and the cricket to provide us with entertainment and joy to us through their respective songs. Their songs are the poetry of earth, poetry that never ceases to be, even during extreme circumstances.
The Tone of On the Grasshopper and Cricket:
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 to the natural language of the earth.
The Themes of On the Grasshopper and Cricket:
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 influence the natural world has 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 along with their inherent qualities or their purposes; for example, he alludes to the heat of the sun, the cool shade provided by the trees, or the pleasantness of 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.
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 has to be tested. After putting nature to the test, Keats concurs that the grasshopper and the cricket are the ones that can overcome all strife, including the extreme temperatures.
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 a rest in some ‘pleasant weed’ to freshen itself so that it can 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.
The grasshopper and the cricket also symbolize tenacity. In spite of 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 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, to future poets like him.
Updated by Anjali Roongta on 26th April 2023.
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