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In Heine's "The Slave Ship", Van koek, the ship’s owner is very inhuman to the black slaves on board and views them as inferior. He sees them as dumb creatures and likens them to cattle. The sole reason he hopes they do not die is to make a profit on selling them at 100 ducats to the house of Gonzales Perreiro in Rio de Janeiro. He finds the idea of the dead slaves’ bodies being torn apart by the hungry sharks quite intriguing. To him “it is the best sight to behold”. He also instructs that those who do not dance properly be whipped by his crew. The captain also accepts that the slaves’ death is their own fault. He agrees to the surgeon’s assertion that their breath is the cause of their deaths. This shows how lowly he thinks of them.
The captain, looking to make good profits, hopes against further casualties. He loathes death and views it as an impediment to the potential wealth that awaits him. In a turn of events, he improves the slave’s living conditions in a bid to reduce mortality. He even prays to God that He spares the lives of the sinful slaves for it would be such a financial loss to him. It is clear that he is selfish and only cares because of the financial value of the slaves. Van Koek thus believes in God . He believes that God punishes sinners and goes ahead to pray that due to their dumbness, God should spare their lives. To him, the deaths could be due to the slave’s sin.
The two poems clearly bring the theme of death and our different attitudes towards it. Keats "Ode to a Nightingale” brings out death as a way of escaping from the day to day hardships. The poem also discusses the issue of mortality and acknowledges that nothing lasts. The narrator has pondered with the issue of death and believes that in death, but wants one that is fulfilling and with everything he has fancied in life. The narrator wants to be with the nightingale at thus seeks death because in his stance, he has had the best worldly experience, the height of pleasure.
In the sixth stanza, he confesses having a liking for death and having mused sweet word to it occasionally. To him, death has never seems richer and this is why it would be ecstatic to die at that moment. Life has done no good to him and in death, everything seems perfect. The world no longer exists’, imagination has taken over with the help of the nightingale’s song. The line that separates self and nothingness, life and death has been removed.
The narrator in "Ode to a Nightingale" shows a string of personal conflicts. A conflict that is quite clear and is the principle stress of the poem in particular is the narrators struggle between the real and the ideal world. In the ideal world, death is inevitable. The poem talks about a nightingale that is capable of living a free life in song; this is a fate human beings cannot expect. Towards the end, the poem takes a twist and the narrator accepts that he cannot escape death nor do pleasures last. In the poem, the songbird has been depicted as an immortal creature to better illustrate the narrators predicament.
Both poems have clearly brought out the conflict of bondage and freedom. In "Ode to a Nightingale", ordinary life is the bondage the writer would want to escape. The writer wants to escape reality in poetic wings and not through alcohol-not carried by Bacchus and his pards. He further drifts into a state of no sight and can only sense smell and hear the world around him which to him is like paradise. He cannot see the flowers he steps nor where the incense scent is coming from. In "The Slave Ship" the ship is in bondage of its own as are the black slaves from Senegal. The ship is in deep sea, with the waves and the human eating sharks on its wake. The black slaves are locked up in addition to being cuffed in iron. They even go to extents of faking death in attempt to be thrown out to the sea, unaware of the situation that awaits them. To them, this would have been freedom.
There is the conflict of permanence and change. The narrator in Ode to a nightingale acknowledges that he could do with a change. The fantasy is a clear sign that he seeks a better life somewhere else. The nightingale represents a life of freedom to movement because he wants to fly away with it. Van Koek believes that the slaves could change his fortune. He speculates a six hundred percent profit from the six hundred slaves on board.
The conflict between pleasure and pain is well portrayed in the two poems. The pleasure in Keats poem is escaping ordinary and hard life to a life of immortality. Inevitable death is a mystery that the poet sorts to unravel. It is pleasure no man has ever acquired. He admits that the same song has been heard by clowns as well as kings, even Ruth, who was homesick in a foreign land. Pain is brought out in the way as the nightingale flies away from the narrator, he laments that he can no longer recall whether it was all a vision in his mind or just an ordinary waking dream and that his imagination has failed him. In addition to this, the poem begins with a complaint of his heartache, he is in so much pain he feels as though he is drugged or has taken some poison. The narrator is referring to a nightingale that sings in a tree close to him.
The captain in The Slave Ship envisions the pleasures of having all he has; slaves, gold, pepper, rubber and the six hundred slaves and the money he would fetch. Pain is brought out clearly by the suffering of the slaves. Resorting to be thrown into deep sea is a sign that they were in a lot of pain. The captain also hopes that the slaves survive for it would cause him so much pain to make a loss.
Ode to a Nightingale brings out the conflict between art and life. In art, the narrator is taken away to his wildest fantasies. The narrator is drawn to an imaginary perfect world in this poem. It is clear that he doesn’t want to go back to reality. He tells the bird that it was not born for mortality like him, and that in its life no hungry people bothered it. He also laments that going back to his life is not what he wanted, but has to because imagination can not last forever. In his real life, one had to cope with hardships to survive and that is why he had often toyed with the idea of death. In the third stanza, the narrator wishes to fly far away to escape these hardships that the bird had never experienced. In life, all human beings suffer and death is inevitable as the narrator states. Art and life have conflicted to show the true feelings of the narrator regarding his life.