‘On The Grasshopper and The Cricket’ by John Keats

The poetry of earth is never dead:

When all the birds are faint with hot sun,

And hide in the cooling trees, a voice will run

From hedge to hedge about a 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 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.

Mead: meadow

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10 Responses to ‘On The Grasshopper and The Cricket’ by John Keats

  1. coreachick says:

    Keats was born in England in 1795 and died of tuberculosis when he
    was just 25, by which time he had composed an astonishing amount
    of powerful poetry. This particular sonnet was written when he was 21.
    It is in the Petrarchan or Italian form of the sonnet with an octave
    (here quite clearly divided into two quatrains) and a sestet, without a
    rhyming couplet at the end. Like Milton, who also used this form, he
    wrote sonnets about many different subjects, not specifically, as early
    sonnet writers tended to, about love.
    The poem was written as a response to a sort of competition between
    himself and his great friend, Leigh Hunt, as to who could write the best
    verse, in a short time, on a specified topic. Keats won on this occasion,
    although he generously avowed that he preferred the other poet’s
    attempt. Think of parallels with (e.g.) Aesop’s fable ‘The Ant and the
    Grasshopper’ in which the grasshopper light-heartedly plays during the
    Summer, while the Ant toils. When Winter comes, the grasshopper, unlike
    the Ant is ill prepared for its severity. (Cf. also Poems 40 and 41 in Songs
    of Ourselves: Isaac Watts, ‘The Ant or Emmet’ and Abraham Cowley, ‘The
    Grasshopper’.)

    Title: the grasshopper is a diurnal insect, the cricket nocturnal. They both like
    warmth, hence the reference to the stove as a home for the cricket.
    Line 8: weed: the poetic use of this word denotes a small plant and is quite neutral,
    with no implications of not being wanted or being out of control.

    a. How does the structure of this sonnet relate to the unfolding ideas and images?
    b. Identify examples of enjambment and explain how they intensify the images.
    c. What is the theme of this poem? Consider how the sound evokes memories of
    the grasshopper in the last line and takes the reader to the beginning of the poem
    again.

    • vc says:

      1.

      First read the octave of the sonnet which deals exclusively with the grasshopper. Write down three
      words of your own to describe the sort of atmosphere built up in the description of the height of summer.
      (Consider how the sounds of the octave help the reader to feel the atmosphere).

      2.

      Consider also the arrangement of the lines, considering how Keats achieves variety in the rhythms of the
      verse, and how he achieves emphasis. In groups have one person read the poem out loud while the rest
      of the group note where natural pauses occur.

      3. Now look at the first line of the sestet now, comparing it with the first line of the poem. Consider what the
      effect is of the echo just at the beginning of the new ‘paragraph’ in the poem? The word order is rather
      unusual. What is the effect is of leaving the word ‘never’ to the end of the line, relating this also to the
      rhyme with ‘ever’ three lines later.

      4. Now do the same with the sestet as you did with the octave – describe the atmosphere in three words of
      your own and then try to explore how the atmosphere is created, not forgetting the sounds of the words.

      5. The sound evokes memories of the grasshopper in the last line and takes the reader to the beginning of
      the poem again. In what ways does a consideration of this help you to understand the full meaning of the
      first line, ‘The poetry of earth is never dead’? Explain your own view of what Keats is trying to say through
      this poem in one or two sentences.

  2. Aditya says:

    In ‘On the grasshopper and the cricket’, John Keats tries to describe how nature is immortal, he uses nature and visual imagery to paint a two sided picture and depict two stories of how human life intersects with nature on earth. The first and more direct story told by Keats is how in summer, when the ”birds have fainted from the heat of the sun and take shelter under cool leaves”, the grasshopper sings and churps from the meadows and then in winter, when the world is frosted in cold, the cricket sings from a warm stove and the human listener in half a doze imagines this to be the sound of a grasshopper, here Keats is impying how even subconsciously humans long for the luxury of summer. The second more metaphorical story told by Keats is that how summer symbolizes youth, health and luxury and winter the exact opposite and how it recalls the luxury of summer. Throughout the poem there is a comparison of summer to winter, grasshopper to cricket and youth to recalling of youth. Keats tries to portray that nature is as a whole emblematic of all the joys lived through all the seasons of all the years.

    The poem is written the form of an italian sonnet of 14 lines and has a rhyming structure of ABABCDE, making it fluent and rhythmic. The octave and the sestet compare and contrast a hot summer day and a bitterly cold and lonely winter evening. Keats uses personification, alliteration and metaphors throughout the poem trying to make the reader understand and imagine exactly what he is trying to say about nature more clearer and finer.

    Also, I would like to say that this forum is immensely helpful as I being an IGCSE student have benefited a lot from it.

    Thank you very much.

  3. cassie says:

    this is really goood:)

  4. rachel says:

    ah thanks! i have the eng lit exam tomorrow *ahhh* and this has helped me tremendously! :D

  5. manju says:

    thanks to adi

  6. Nishi Mehta says:

    thanks Adi I don’t know you whom are you but thanks as it has given me a greatful help from this thanks :p

  7. Princess Essie says:

    I never thought i would understand such a poem.

  8. sameh says:

    yes , absolutely helpful and thoughtful piece

  9. jagadish says:

    Thanks, extremely useful and well knit thought !

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