John Keats Odes Analysis

John Keats Odes Analysis 

John Keats Odes Analysis Themes Subject

Analysis, Themes, Subject of Odes of John Keats 

John Keats (1795 - 1821) 

John Keats, long considered a major poet of the Romantic period, experimented with a variety of genres during his brief career. Those fir which he is best known are the ode, sonnet, romance, ballad and two unfinished epics ("Hyperion" and "The Fall of Hyperion") which can be classified as Romantic fragment poems. The three volumes Keats published in his lifetime make clear that distinctions among genres were important to him. 

Themes of John Keats' Odes

The 'Ode' has appealed to John Keats because it was considered the most lofty of lyric generes; in his 1816 epistle "To Charles Cowdon Clarke" Keats referred to "the grandeur of the Ode", suggesting its nobility and high seriousness. The ambitious Keats, who longed to distinguish himself in a major epic or romance, a goal that so far had eluded him, could at least take heart from the sense that the Ode was at the top of the lyric hierarchy. Finally, as we see, Keats' Odes manage to combine his dramatic and lyrical impulses.

Relevant to Keats' major odes is a passage in a letter from April 1819 in which Keats develops a concept of the world as a 'vale of soul-making', according to his human suffering in an imperfect world is designed 'for the purpose of forming the Soul or Intelligence destined to possess the sense of Identity.' Two significant developments in Keats' thinking are reflected in this passage. One is his vaporization of identity, which he had previously regarded as a burden for poets to shed in their writing. The other important point is Keats' acceptance of 'a world of pains and troubles.' Keats had been struggling between the attractions of 'golden-tongued Romance' and of mixed, mortal human experience. In his Odes, this struggle is renewed and forms their chief subject matter.

Moreover, Keats's odes are redolent with his concept of beauty, his sensuousness, his meditativeness, his Hellenism, his escapism and verbal magic which are the major themes of his odes and these  make his odes concrete and colourful and immortal.

◇ Ode To Psyche:

The first ode, "To Psyche", addresses a figure whom Keats says 'was not embodied as a goddess before the time of Apulieus the Platonist who lived after the Agustan Age. Keats chooses a goddess from late in the Classical period, thereby suggesting his preference for a modern muse. The fact that 'psyche' means 'mind' or 'soul' implies Keats' embrace of subjective, personal poetry. His ode declares that he will "sing, by my own eyes inspired' and 'will be (psyche's) priest and build a fane / In some untrodden region of my mind". Instead of aspiring to lose his identity in narrative or dramatic works, Keats appears to accept his position in history as a lyric poet. 

◇ Ode To A Nightingale:

"Ode to a Nightingale" is the most personal of the odes, expressing the speaker's agonized longing to transcend the ills of human life, "The weariness, the fever, and the fret...... / Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin and dies". The latter line probably referring to the recent death of Keats' brother Tom. The Nightingale is a figure from the realm of romance, as it enjoys perpetual, sensuous bliss and effortless self-expression in a lush, bower-like setting. Although the poem is a subjective lyric, it nonetheless fulfils certain aspects of Keats' ideal of Negative Capability. Another dimension of this concept is an open-minded acceptance of all ideas and information as the best way to arrive at the truth.

You May Like To Read More:

"Ode to a Nightingale" enacts this open-minded engagement with all thoughts, even those that challenge one's favourite assumption, as a means to come at the truth. The speaker begins by celebrating the Nightingale, but in the course of the poem, he is increasingly confronted by limitations and drawbacks to the condition it represents, to the point where he finally dismisses the 'faery lands' with which it is associated as 'forlorn', and the bird's song appears a 'plaintive anthem' rather than an ecstatic song as it did at the beginning of the poem. "Ode to a Nightingale" conveys the speaker's mental journey. The poem is lyrical but also dramatic in the way it depicts the speaker's inner conflict and changing perspective. 

Key Points in Ode to a Nightingale 

  • His concept of beauty: John Keats was a life-long quester of beauty. At first he loved beauty purely in its sensuous aspects. Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" represents Keats's concept of beauty both in its sensuous and spiritual aspects. 
  • His sensuousness: "Ode to a Nightingale" amply illustrates Keats's sensuousness- his delight in sights, sounds, colours, smell and touch.
  • His meditativeness: "Ode to a Nightingale" turns on the thought of the conflict between the ideal and the real - between the joy, beauty and apparent permanence of the nightingale's song, and the sorrow and the transience of joy and beauty in human life 
  • His Hellenism: In "Ode to a Nightingale" the reference to Greek mythology is to be found in the mention of 'Lethe', 'Dryad', 'Flora', 'Hippocrene' etc.
  • His escapism: Keats is not an escapist. His escapism is always a passing mood with him, because he knows that such an escape is neither possible nor desirable. This is well exhibited in "Ode to a Nightingale".

◇ Ode On A Grecian Urn 

"Ode on a Grecian Urn" similarly enacts the speaker's confrontation with an object associated with romance. In this case, an urn whose carved figures are permanently suspended in an ecstatic moment. The speaker seems to engage in a debate with two aspects of his own mind as he alternately celebrates the frozen lovers on the urn whose passion will never grow old and laments the frustration of a state in which the 'bold lover, never, canst...... kiss' the woman he pursues, 'Though winning near the goal'. The speaker's thoughts evolve over the course of the poem as he open-mindedly considers the implications of the state represented by the urn, until he finally dismisses it as a 'Cold Pastoral'. 

Key Points in Ode on a Grecian Urn:

  • Keats as a poet of joy: "Ode on a Grecian Urn" reveals Keats as a poet of joy. Keats derives heavenly joy from the contemplation of the figures sculptured on the Grecian Urn. 
  • Realisationof beauty: "Ode on a Grecian Urn" reveals Keats's final concept of beauty. After his long quest Keats came to see that beauty is the reality beyond changing appearances, and as such it is identical with truth. That men will suffer and will continue to suffer in the future is a truth and hence a thing of beauty. 
  • His Hellenism: "Ode on a Grecian Urn" reveals his Hellenism most fully. The subject is urn, a relic of ancient Greek sculpture. 
  • His sensuousness: Keats's sensuousness is evidence in his description of the sculptured scenes. The mad pursuit of maidens, the struggle of maidens to escape being kissed by bold lovers, the wild ecstasy of impassioned youths, the melodist playing on soft pipe etc - all these feast our senses with sweet pleasure.

You May Like To Read More:

◇ Ode On Melancholy:

Keats's "Ode on a Melancholy" was published in 1820. In this ode 'melancholy', a notoriously unbeautiful subject is presented with contradicting beautiful images of April, 'droop headed flowers'. In "Ode on Melancholy" Keats shows the importance of melancholy which is interlinked with the beautiful forms of life. The poet says - "Beauty that must die" and for joy "whose hand is ever at his lips/Bidding adieu"."Ode on Melancholy" is less subjective than the previous odes. In this work, the speaker's mind is settled at the outset and he addresses the reader, communicating his point of view to someone else rather than wrestling with his own thoughts. This poem argues against any effort to transcend the mortal world and instead counsels direct engagement with it. Its drama emerges from the contrasting elements of joy and sorrow, life and death, which it depicts in images of beautiful but transient natural phenomena: a 'weeping cloud, / That fosters the droop-headed flowers all', a 'morning rose', 'the rainbow of the salt sand-wave'. Moreover, so intensively does the speaker enter into the scenes and objects he describes that he seems to disappear into then, in this way fulfilling Keats' ideal of Negative Capability. The poem has a rather stern, harsh tone, however, as its primary message to the reader is not how to find delight in the ephemeral beauty of this world but how to find melancholy in the fact that 'Beauty must die...... and aching pleasure nigh, / Turn to poison while the bee-mouth sips'. 

Thus in this ode, the speaker gives the message that it is impossible to have a complete life without melancholy and he shows this through contradicting but effective imagery such as the example of April, marked by sad and rainy month, but it is beautiful in its own way and leads to the blooming of those 'droop-headed flowers'. A morning rose, although fleeting alive, has a beauty that brightens. 

Key Points in Ode on Melancholy:

  • Ode on Melancholy shows that beauty and melancholy are intertwined in the world, and that both offer a fuller view of life when occurring side by side
  • Keats's sensuousness is presented through the imagery of 'droop-headed flowers', 'green hill in an April shroud'. 
  • "Ode on Melancholy" represents Keats's message of what to do and what not do when life is beset by melancholy. 

◇ Ode To Autumn:

Keats' last major ode is "To Autumn", composed on 19th September, 1819. Its subject and point of view are similar to those of " Ode on Melancholy", as the poem is filled with sensuous images of the natural world that inextricably intertwined elements of life and death, and it counsels against turning away from the world of process when the speaker tells Autumn not to think of 'the songs of spring' because 'thou hast thy music too'. Also like "Ode on Melancholy", " To Autumn" contains no first-person 'I', and the speaker's identity seems to disappear into the vivid sights, sounds, and sensations of the autumn scene he describes. In contrast to 'Melancholy', however, this ode emphasizes the beauty and pleasure that can be found at every stage of life, in spite of the fact that all living things perish. 

You May Like To Read More:

Key Points in Ode to Autumn:

  • Treatment of Nature: "Ode to Autumn" is remarkable for its treatment of nature. The bounty of Autumn has been described with all its sensuousness - smell, sight, touch. 
  • Embodiment of personality: Like an ancient Greek, Keats sees Autumn as embodied in personality - as a reaper, harvester, gleaner or a cider-presser.
  • His sensuousness: Keats's sensuousness is evidence in "Ode to Autumn" in his description of the different ripe and juicy fruits - grapes, apples, pumpkins, nuts - appeal to our senses of sight, smell and touch.

◇ Ode On Indolence:

In "Ode on Indolence" the speaker describes a vision he had one morning of three strange figures wearing white robes and 'placid sandals'. He recognizes the images and "burn'd and ached for wings" because he wishes them to follow. The first face is that of a "fair maid" called Love, and the second face represents a watchful Ambition and the last image is the face of the demon Poesy or poetry. The images passed by in profile, and the speaker describes their passing by comparing them to figures carved into the side of a marble urn or vase. The speaker here declares that it is the last image which us of Poesy he loves the most. 

When the figures disappear in the fourth stanza, the speaker again aches to follow them, but he realizes that the urge is folly: Love is fleeting, Ambition is mortal, and Poesy has nothing to offer that compares with an indolent summer day untroubled by "busy common sense".

Ultimately, the vision could not compel him to any kind of action. The speaker bids the figures goodbye in the final stanza. The speaker ultimately realizes that he should stay where he is out of a love for indolence. He finally asks the visions to vanish and never return again. 

You May Like To Read More:

Post a Comment