Unquestionably, Keats was one of the most significant figures of early nineteenth-century Romanticism, a movement that promoted the importance of the natural world and the purity of passion and imagination. The beauty of nature, the connection between creativity and imagination, how the feelings react to sorrow and beauty, and the impermanence of human life are just a few of the concepts and topics that are obvious in Keats’ famous odes. The odes’ lavish sensory language, idealistic devotion for truth and beauty, and passionate anguish in the face of death are all Romantic preoccupations—yet they are also all distinctively Keats’s.
Romantic poet John Keats famously said, “If poetry does not come as naturally to one as the leaves do to a tree, it had better not come at all.” Like many romantic poets, Keats’ poetry is enhanced by a great interest in beauty and the natural world, as well as by exquisite sensuous imagery. He is an escapist and Hellenistic. Along with his fixation with beauty, he also muses on mortality, and his main areas of interest with a “Negative Capability” have been love, bravery, exploration, and melancholy. Ancient mythology profoundly affected Keats. Although essentially romantic, Keats had a strong interest in the works of Homer, Dante, Virgil, Shakespeare, and other authors. No matter if Keats is speculative and dejected about his impending mortality, enthralled in the majesty of old art, or alluring like a bird at night, nature is always there as the ideal background for his poems.
Passionate poet who writes about nature:
John Keats is an ardent romantic who paints all of his topics against the backdrop of the natural world. His entire body of work is a pure representation of the splendor and color of nature. If he’s trying to capture “Night’s starred face” in “when I Have Fears,” then the description of nature in “Ode to Autumn” is really accurate and seductive. Although the poem’s general tone is one of darkness and the threat of an impending winter, the readers’ horizon is brightened by the glittering rays of autumn’s colors: “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness! Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;“. Keats described the grandeur of the fields in a letter he sent to Reynolds from Winchester in September 1819, expressing his intention to write a poem on the lovely surroundings. “How beautiful the season is now,” he remarks.
Read More: Romanticism in English Literature
Pictures of Inanimate Objects:
In order to make his illustrations more lifelike, Keats frequently gives his inanimate subjects a sense of life and the capacity to feel, perceive, and understand. He describes lifeless and pointless objects in terms of movement, sensation, and energy. For instance, in “The Eve of St. Agnes”, he depicts statues of kings and queens and implies that they are capable of experiencing cold:
“The Sculptur’d dead, on each side, seem to freeze,
He passesth by; and his weak spirit fails
To think how they may ache in cy hoods and mails.”
He makes reference to the stone angels once more and gives them the ability to see:
“The carved angles, ever eager-eyed.
Star’d, where upon their heads the cornice rests.”
John Keats and the Idea of Negative Capability:
Keats argues on the objectivity of the poet because he is a true romantic. According to him, a poet must be able to observe a phenomenon without being constrained by “theory of knowledge” or preconceived notions and views. Keats catches the splendor of Nature without letting his prior knowledge affect him. For instance, while autumn is generally thought of as the season of impending doom in the form of winter, the poet is captivated by the beauty of the rich and spectacular environment around him and is compelled to write a poem about the splendor of autumn despite prior and conventional wisdom.
Read More: Ode to Autumn summary
Sensuousness is the defining characteristic of Keats’ poetic brilliance. Keats is often regarded as the greatest poet of the senses and their pleasures. The odes, which stand as Keats’s crowning poetic achievement, are filled with sensual imagery. One of the best instances of Keats’ deep sensuality is The Ode to a Nightingale. Our senses of smell and taste are stimulated by the poet’s lines in which he describes his intense yearning for some Provencal wine or the red wine from the Fountain of the Muses:
“O, for a draught of vintage! That hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!”
These lines paint a charming picture of Provence, complete with revelry, drinking, dancing, and other pleasant activities. The beaker of glittering, blushing Hippocrene is also very appealing. The moon glowing in the sky while being encircled by stars is another wonderful image. One of the poem’s most stunning images is the lavish feast of flowers that is described in the next stanza. Flowers, delicate incense, fruit trees, white hawthorn, eglantine, rapidly fading violets, and the impending musk-rose are all pleasing to the senses.
Read More: Hellenism in John Keats’s poetry
Escapist interpretations of John Keats:
Escapism is at the heart of all romantic poetry. They frequently choose the ideal over reality. They get lost in the world of poetic whimsy and fantasy. For instance, in “Ode to Nightingale”, Keats overcomes his mental difficulties and commands the nightingale to fly to him by saying, “Away! away! for I will fly to thee”. The poet is compelled by the escapist idealism to escape the searing realism and embrace the nightingale’s ideal life. The poet longs to vanish alongside the happy nightingale. The nightingale, who has never experienced such “weariness,” sings in response to his desire to “fade far away, dissolve and quite forget” the human sufferings.
The odes represent the pinnacle of Keats’ poetic accomplishment and represent the highest expression of his poetic talent. Simplicity, force of touch, and abundance of expression come together flawlessly in his poems. This is a rare instance of the best of romanticism and classical discipline coming together. So, in the end, we can say that John Keats is a true romantic poet.
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