‘On the Grasshopper and Cricket’ was written in 1816. As one of the main figures of the Romantic Movement, John Keats portrayed the beauty of nature and its capacity to bring joy in his poems. ‘On the Grasshopper and Cricket’ praises the continuous beauty of nature by taking into account the song of two particular insects, the grasshopper, and the cricket.
The poem has fourteen lines and it can be divided into one octet and one sestet, following the Petrarchan sonnet form. It has an ABBA rhyme scheme and it is written in iambic pentameter. The use of this form can be associated with Keats’s belief regarding love and nature and how they are both related to each other. According to the poet, nature offers love and joy and the human response should correspond to that fondness.
Furthermore, the main theme in ‘On the Grasshopper and Cricket’ is nature and its eternal delight and its persistent presence.
On the Grasshopper and Cricket Analysis
The Poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper’s—he takes the lead
In summer luxury,—he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The first stanza is set in summer. Notice the first line and how it foregrounds the message of the poem (“The Poetry of earth is never dead”). The lyrical voice begins the stanza by making this strong statement and proceeding to portray a summer scene. During a hot summer day, “are the birds are faint with the hot sun” and they hide from the sun and stop singing in order to rest. However, as the first line stated (“The Poetry of earth is never dead”), nature continues to persist and the grasshopper “takes the lead”. The lyrical voice describes how the song of the grasshopper emerges (“a voice will run”). The grasshopper continues hopping and continues singing “The Poetry of earth”; he enjoys life and is always at ease and having fun. When the grasshopper is satisfied (“With his delights; for when tired out with fun), “He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed”.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.
The second stanza of ‘On the Grasshopper and Cricket’ is set in winter. The first line is similar to that of the first stanza because it mentions the main message of the poem. Nevertheless, in the second stanza, it is accentuated, as the lyrical voice says that “The poetry of earth is ceasing never”. The lyrical voice portrays a winter scene (“On a lone winter evening”). Once again, at the beginning of the stanza, silence is mentioned (“when the frost/ Has wrought a silence”), but, this silence will be interrupted by an insect’s song (“from the stove there shrills/The Cricket’s song”). When winter arrives and all creatures shelter from the cold, loneliness and silence appear to reign. However, the cricket’s song emerges and emphasizes the persistent quality of nature. The cricket is forced to seek warmth indoors, but his song gets louder as he finds more and more warmth (“in warmth increasing ever”). The listeners of this song mistake the cricket’s song for the grasshopper’s song and the lyrical voice says that the cricket’s song reminds him of the grasshopper’s song: “And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,/The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills”.
This final couplet refers to the cycle of seasons and how, despite being different, winter and summer are part of the same thing. The cricket’s song is linked to the grasshopper’s song, as they are both parts of nature’s persistent and loving force. This final message unifies the contrast that the lyrical voice has made throughout the poem. The contrast is both formal, as the seasons are described in different types of stanzas, and metaphorical, as different insects represent and characterize different seasons. However, the beginning of each stanza and the end of the poem, unify these different expressions of nature and accentuate the persistence of nature as a unified whole.
About John Keats
John Keats was born in 1795 and died in 1821. He was an English romantic poet and one of the main figures in the second Romantic Movement, with Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. John Keats died when he was twenty-five years old and most of his works were published four years before his death. He wrote most of his poems between 1814 and 1819. Keats’s works were not recognized during his lifetime, as critics didn’t receive his poems very well, but, his reputation grew after he died, and became one of the main poets of the nineteenth century.
Keats challenged poetic forms and created his own distinct literary configuration. He is known, particularly, for his odes, which he wrote in 1819. These are characterized by their great and powerful imagery. During his lifetime, he published fifty-four poems in three small volumes and a few magazines. John Keat’s most recognized works include “I Stood Tip-toe Upon a Little Hill“, “Sleep and Poetry“, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer“, “Endymion”, “Ode to a Nightingale”, “To Autumn”, among others.