O Solitude, if I must with thee dwell: Imagery, symbolism and themes

Imagery and symbolism in O Solitude, if I must with thee dwell

The image Keats projects of himself in this sonnet is that of a humble being in thrall to the superior power of Solitude.
‘Pavilion’d’ creates an image associated with the chivalric Romances of the Middle Ages. A pavilion is a large decorated construction and the image conjures up medieval jousting or warfare as well as suggesting the vault-like or canopied effect of the tracery of branches in the forest.

Investigating imagery and symbolism in O Solitude

  • What is the effect of the images uses to create an impression of the natural world? 
    • More specifically, why does Keats choose the ‘dell’, the ‘river’, the ‘boughs’ of trees, the ‘deer’, ‘bee’ and ‘foxglove’?
  • What is conveyed by Keats describing the imagined words of his companion as the ‘images of thoughts refined’?

Themes in O Solitude

The central theme is that of escaping to the beauty of nature as a contrast to the crowded, squalid ugliness of the town.
The poem expresses Keats’ unhappiness with his present circumstances, living in crowded and poverty-stricken surroundings in London. The ‘jumbled heap’ seems like rubble from which he moves upwards, climbing the ‘steep’ until he has a high vantage, amongst tree branches. His thoughts mount higher still as he contemplates his ‘soul’s pleasure’ and ‘highest bliss’, which are terms associated with heaven.
Another contrast of themes is that of solitude versus companionship. Solitude is tolerable within the beauties of nature; it even becomes his ‘soul’s pleasure’ if entered into alongside a kindred spirit.

Investigating themes of O Solitude

  • Why does Keats beg to be allowed to endure his isolation away from the city’s squalor? 
    • Why is solitude amid nature preferable to solitude in the city?
  • Keats wishes for ‘the sweet converse of an innocent mind’. What does this reveal about Keats’ personality?
  • In what ways does it help to know the biographical context of this poem?
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