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  • Hawthorne and His Mosses (9 comments)

    • Comment by Doc Olsen-Smith on January 9, 2017

      “It is curious, how a man may travel along a country road, and yet miss the grandest, or sweetest of prospects, by reason of an intervening hedge, so like all other hedges, as in no way to hint of the wide landscape beyond.”

      Melville’s claim never to have closely read Shakespeare before finding the edition in “glorious great” type is comparable to this statement. It all seems part of a larger intent to celebrate reading and assert the wealth of art and literature available to any one inclined to seek it out. The passion and commitment with which he read Shakespeare and Hawthorne should perhaps be considered in this spirit. The assertion also parallels, in a general way, Melville’s characteristic belief that there are layers to reality and meaning, and that most of us spend our time on the surface rather than diving beneath.

      Comment by Doc Olsen-Smith on January 9, 2017

      [“Monsieur du Miroir”]

      “Monsieur du Miroir” is a lovely piece on the mysteries of the Self, with many romantic applications to psychological themes and motifs we covered together last term. You can examine Melville’s marginalia to this and other tales in the collection by consulting the digital copy of Mosses from an Old Manse.

      Comment by Kenzington Price on January 10, 2017

      This passage was studied/referred to within class last semester and it is one that I have thought about many times as I’ve read books/stories, or seen movies that seem to be lacking this “darkness” within any character. Similar to Melville, I have noticed that I also tend to be most interested in the characters that aren’t simply “white knights.”

      This passage is even more interesting to me when I consider the way in which Melville recognizes the truth within the madness, which is certainly reflected within Moby Dick. It is interesting to see the distinct inspiration/attraction Melville felt to writing in such a way– a way that is clearly inspired by dark themes. Especially when considering the previous paragraph that touches on Original Sin – another theme found within his work.

      When one considers the previous paragraph alongside his analysis of the beauty and finesse of the “darkness”, it seems that Melville is commenting on Hawthorne’s ability to weave it within his stories, but not forcing it in the face of his readers. It seems that he admires the subtlety. Perhaps this is why Melville seem to take a tone of dark humor and a sense of self-aware irony, rather than writing in a way that is absolute self-serious depression. If he were writing on Poe, it would probably be a very different story.

      Comment by Benjamin Carter on January 11, 2017

      Beyond its status as an American, literary epic, Moby-Dick unintentionally serves as a time-lapse that illustrates the development of Melville’s intellectual interests and purpose over the course of his work on the famous romance. An understanding of the structure of Moby-Dick–the disparity between its potboiler foundation (the original captains, Bildad and Peleg; the strange case of Bulkington), to the apex of Ahab’s combative and existential arc–can be deepened by observing a chronology of formative events in Melville’s life.

      Biographical criticism holds that a reintroduction to Shakespeare, a change of location, and an invigorating and intellectual relationship with Hawthorne are all factors that, somewhere in mid-draft, compelled Melville to reconceptualize Moby-Dick, not as a crowd-pleasing adventure, but as one of the first distinctly American works of literature.

      “Hawthorne and His Mosses” is a crucial piece of writing for understanding the process behind Moby-Dick. Melville’s essay (written somewhere in the middle of the composition of Moby-Dick) is, in addition to being a critical celebration of Hawthorne’s mind and writing, a well-crafted call for American literature. The connection between this call to action and Melville’s own reimagining of Moby-Dick is clear. Furthermore, it is no accident that Melville (who, if his essay hadn’t clued you in, had a great deal of Shakespeare on the brain) refocuses the narrative of Moby-Dick to a suspiciously Shakespearean, “dark character”: Ahab.

      It is my estimation that Ahab is a composite of the “innate depravity” Melville saw in Hawthorne as well as the Shakespearean “dark character” that, as Melville asserts, is the greater part of Shakespeare’s genius. As further evidence, the saturation of Ahab’s monologues (many of which are tonally Shakespearean but Romantically existential) in the later half of the romance strongly suggest that Melville is consciously riding the line between crafting a distinctly American literary work while also borrowing the darkness found in great minds (like Shakespeare’s, like Hawthorne’s).

      Comment by Benjamin Carter on January 11, 2017

      On the subject of subtlety (as it pertains to the darkness of truth-seeking), it appears to me that Melville laments how withholding Shakespeare was about exploring “the sane madness of vital truth.” It is curious, then, knowing his opinions of Shakespeare and Hawthorne, to study the degree to which Melville incorporated darkness into his own works. I would argue that Melville is not so subtle–the latter half of Moby-Dick (as well the former, but to a lesser degree) is rich with philosophical and existential digressions and monologues. One of my favorite, not-so-subtle confrontations with the profoundly shadowed nature of truth-seeking comes in the latter half of Chapter 119, “The Candles,” wherein Ahab is fully realized as a “dark character” whose monologuing shows him at the cusp of madness and truth.

      Comment by Kenzington Price on January 12, 2017

      I agree with you about the darkness found within Moby Dick. The narration in particular is very forthright about the outlook being dark right from the outset of the novel.

      But I want to bring up your analysis of Melville’s opinion of Shakespeare. He surely seems to be willing to give him praise and it seems to me that (especially within the first half of this section) he believes that it is within those glimpses of “dark truth” that the genius resides, in fact, he calls them “the things that make Shakespeare, Shakespeare.” However, as you pointed out, it doesn’t seem that Melville is falling into the common approach to Shakespeare that seems to exalt him and his work. This is especially evident within the following 3 or so paragraphs. In fact, he rejects the honoring of Shakespeare quite boldly (and humorously, in my opinion. But, to your point, he does say that these glimpses are only snatching at truth. I think Melville’s opinion of Hawthorne v. Shakespeare is definitely evident as an influence in his work since, as you said,  the “dark truth” is found as an overarching theme within his work.

      Comment by Marcus Blandford on January 12, 2017

      I definitely associate this particular passage with Melville’s later musings on William Shakespeare. Indeed, the hedge itself seems to be the now timeless presence of Shakespeare, and his impact on literature as we know it. The obstruction that it causes is brought about by the dated mentality Melville mentions in a later passage: “You must believe in Shakespeare’s unapproachability, or quit the country.” The legacy of William Shakespeare has created a hesitation in man that such greatness can never again be achieved – but Melville does not agree. He argues that, if we marvel indefinitely at Shakespeare’s accomplishments, we will never appreciate new minds that may very well be of an equal stature.

      Comment by Marcus Blandford on January 12, 2017

      You make a very intriguing point, Benjamin. Perhaps I’m letting my imagination wander, but I see Bildad and Peleg as archetypes of the “traditional author:” two aged, wise men whose presence of the ship extends beyond their physical presence. A key point in the novel that would support this metaphor is the moment they take their leave of the Pequod following its departure. There is a melancholy hesitation in their actions, as they surrender their control of the ship to Ahab and his crew. Ahab, here, would be the “new author,” who borrows from the techniques of his predecessors (Shakespeare), yet brings his own unique approach to create something entirely new – the narrative of which is properly deemed “The Great American Novel.”

      Comment by Marcus Blandford on January 12, 2017

      What a beautiful passage! It is quite fitting that Melville would introduce us to Hawthorne’s writing with this particular quote. In essence, this describes the entire plight of the reader, and certainly English scholars such as ourselves. This is the core of why we read – “Rest, in a life of trouble!” This makes me think of the earliest days in my youth when I truly began to love reading. Hawthorne has tapped into a universal truth here – a truth that Melville would carry on in his own writings for generations of readers to come.

  • R. W. B. Lewis, "Melville on Homer" (9 comments)

    • Comment by Doc Olsen-Smith on March 1, 2017

      [But in Melville, discovery and projection intermingled, and he could discover little sunshine penetrating the clouds which lay thickly over the siege of Troy.]

      Note how this formulation perhaps inadvertently privileges the “projection” part of the binary to which Lewis is ostensibly granting equal weights. Singling out the darkness in Homer is, along with discovering this content, also a form of projection if it involves neglecting content of a brighter nature. We’ll want to look hard at the text to verify that Melville *mainly* gravitated toward the darker content, just as we’ll need to verify Lewis’s claim below (in paragraph 14) that Melville “rarely failed” to mark passages involving abrupt death (paragraph 14).

      Comment by Doc Olsen-Smith on March 1, 2017

      [ they are flashes illuminating the book and the reader and, more significantly, the human experience both were involved in.]

      I must say I admire Lewis’s way with words, and the direction of his inquiries toward big issues and questions. This formulation has Aristotelian connections, with reference to ethos (the author and his/her intentions), pathos (the effects of the author’s text on readers), and logos (the world to which both refer in their efforts to communicate and grasp meaning).

      Comment by Cyrus Garner on March 2, 2017

      [Melville saw in the Iliad an ambiguity of power, an obscurity affecting and affected by the relation between man and the gods.]

      I found this section particularly interesting in that it seems like it would be difficult to contest Lewis’s claim here. For most readers should already be aware of Melville’s tendency to gravitate towards the ambiguity. So it seems very likely that Lewis is correct in this claim, however, it seems impossible to me to either prove or disprove a pulling towards ambiguity. Since, ambiguity does not mean balancing of two sides but leans more towards chaos. That meaning, what every Melville marks, after were told to thing ambiguity, will appear to be ambiguous.

      Comment by Kenzington Price on March 2, 2017

      I also found this passage to be of particular interest and it is the one that I have probably focused on and kept in mind throughout our markups. As you said, I feel that I  may be falling victim to confirmation bias, but I feel that I have (anecdotally) noticed a similar pattern. I especially find this passage relevant to the paragraph that is listed as #19 within this article. The relationship between God and Man seems to be, yet again, a focus.

      I think that we can search for key terms related to the themes discussed by Lewis, and I think it is pretty worthy of pursuit. I find the pattern recognition especially interesting when we consider the analysis made in Hawthorne and His Mosses, as well, and I think it would be interesting to focus on these themes as we move toward data analysis. I am glad to know that this section of the article has been of interest to you as well.

      Comment by Kenzington Price on March 9, 2017

      I think that this passage is one of the most pertinent to our aim with the internship. In many ways, it serves as some kind of mission statement. The most interesting part of this work is the view we have of how Melville read Homer, not how Homer read Homer or how a typical Intro to Lit course might view Homer. I think it’s interesting that Lewis calls it “baffling” because I do not think his claims regarding the “patterns noticed” are all that surprising when one considers the topics discussed in “Hawthorne and His Mosses.” I will be very interested to see how our data matches (or doesn’t match!) the claims found within Lewis’ essay, because I am currently of the belief that this essay, when paired with “Hawthorne and His Mosses” will be of particular interest when backed by firm data.

      Comment by Kenzington Price on March 9, 2017

      I have to constantly remind myself that I am most likely falling into confirmation bias regarding how we read Homer’s reading. Interestingly enough, there are multiple sections marked within my section that pertain to Calypso and Circe. I can’t help but wonder why Melville would find them interesting enough to mark, but I’ve realized that I often find myself “reading” into his readings and assigning meanings that are not backed by tangible evidence. Of course, I can make certain arguments, but when one considers a more concrete perspective I can’t help but consider myself presumptuous.

      Comment by Kenzington Price on March 9, 2017

      One of the final markings within my section of The Odyssey is found on 1.297. http://melvillesmarginalia.org/tool.php?id=117&vu=y

      The entire final half of the page pertains to the sea. However, the passage marked by Melville definitely pertains far more to Lewis’s previous claim that Melville had a focus on death and the relationship between God and man. I find it interesting because this seems like a fairly obvious omission of a marked passage that seems to support previous claims so well.

      Comment by Doc Olsen-Smith on March 15, 2017

      Nice points, Kenzington. Lewis likely gravitated toward the marginalia he could most easily make sense of–in terms of the connections to “Hawthorne and His Mosses” and to Moby-Dick.  Other marginalia in the set may be more difficult to make construe in that context–and correspond more closely to the sort of evidence Lewis puts under the “bafflement” column–but that’s where the opportunity to reveal new insights and observations will be strongest.

      Comment by Doc Olsen-Smith on March 15, 2017

      Very good evidence! Make sure that gets into your notes.  We’ll want to compile any and all marked content not mentioned by Lewis that helps to support his thesis.

  • Odes (9 comments)

    • Comment by Courtney Otto on May 17, 2018

      Keats takes special interest in the connection between Beauty and Truth. We have seen this in this poem as well as his letters. I believe this speaks to his views on the arts and how, in communicating beauty and emotion, we might see truths of life beyond the written word or simple logic. The Grecian Urn is an example of how wisdom is reflected in the beauty, and simplicity of this object which is often overlooked.

      Comment by Doc Olsen-Smith on May 17, 2018

      [What little town by river or sea shore] It’s interesting that here the speaker reflects on what is not portrayed on the urn, but what he has intuited through imaginative interaction with it. This capacity of art to “activate” our own imaginative capacities is I think central to Keats’s conception of negative capability, which surpasses the calcified nature of plodding sequential logic by enlivening our conceptions with personal power and agency–drawing us in to the transcendent properties of artistic experience. Notice though that his conceptions of the town bear the stamp of his all-too-human state of isolation and uncertainty. In this life we ourselves are like the abandoned town, afflicted by a sense of abandonment and loss.

      Comment by Tori Ward on May 17, 2018

      A majority of this stanza seems to draw a lot of inspiration from the tragedy Romeo and Juliet. The two things that particularly caught my attention were “Heard Melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter” and “She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss / for ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!”.

      The heard and unheard melodies remind me of Tennyson’s “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” meaning, though Romeo and Juliet’s love was short and forbidden, it doesn’t make it any less valid, and this stanza, and the ending of R&J, basically argue that those factors make it better.

      The last two lines strike me as references to when Romeo first comes upon Juliet when he thinks she’s dead but is only sleeping. He describes her as “Death, that hath suck’d the honey of thy breath, Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty which falls in with, “For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!” and the romanticization of the dead and dying that was popular in Elizabethan and Grecian times, which this is an ode to.

      Comment by Tori Ward on May 29, 2018

      I think this first stanza does a good job of establishing the poem’s “argument” for lack of better word; that melancholy can be a happy thing, because it reminds you that you’re alive and experiencing. The last two lines especially capture this, “For shade to shade will come too drowsily, / And down the wakeful anguish of the soul.” “drowsily” and “wakeful anguish” play off each other as the signifiers for life and death. So often in our media suicide is portrayed as an escape from pain, a balm of some sort. But Keats establishes here that the death comes “too drowsily”, smothering any chance to feel that relief of the pain going away via suicide, because everything goes away. I think that’s why this is an Ode–a celebration of something–because Keats believes here that it’s better than the alternative–“No, no, go not to the Lethe.” etc.

      Comment by Doc Olsen-Smith on May 30, 2018

      Well put. According to the romantic logic of the poem (if such phrasal profanation be permitted), we are here not primarily to enjoy, but to FEEL. Pain, nonfulfillment, melancholy all contribute to the greater equation of what we are as mentally and emotionally endowed beings–even moreso than joy, Keats suggests. By this measure, to evade sorrow is to consign ourselves to a state of stupor or non-entity (ie, in “Lethe”), and the depth and complexity indicated by our capacity to reflect upon sorrow, as well as just experience it, has a compensatory value. As with other sentiments we’ve studied in Keats, passion and intensity are valued above security and longevity.

      Comment by Courtney Otto on June 7, 2018

      “The winged boy” in this stanza is likely Eros/Cupid who fell in love with Psyche in Greek Mythology. Cupid was originally sent to Psyche by Aphrodite, who was angered by her worshipers deciding to praise Psyche rather than Aphrodite. Cupid was supposed to get revenge for Aphrodite but he became infatuated with Psyche as Aphrodite’s worshipers had. It also seems that the narrator is infatuated with Psyche. In the following stanza he expresses his dismay that Psyche is not honored with temples or song, “No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat” He goes on to declare that he will be, “Thy shrine, thy grove, thy oracle, thy heat”. This poem is a powerful statement of faith, beauty, and devotion, illustrated through the speaker and the imagery he describes.

      Comment by Courtney Otto on June 7, 2018

      The speaker in this ode is enjoying the calm emptiness which comes with indolence(laziness or sloth). His attention is captured by Love, Ambition, and Poesy. Ultimately he chooses, “to bid farewell” to the three in favor of Indolence. The feeling of emptiness that often accompanies idleness can make things like love, ambition, and poesy loose their luster. Like the narrator says, they seem like shadowy figures or ghosts that come and go. There is a comfort which comes with indolence that can make enjoyable things like poesy(poetry) ambitions, or love, seem uninteresting. The pull of indolence may cause even the most devout writers to turn from their work to enjoying, “drowsy noons”.

      Comment by Em Lanagan on June 8, 2018

      This section reminds me of two lines that Keats annotated in Much Ado About Nothing. The first line goes “(that joy could) not show modest enough, without a badge of bitterness” and “(how much) better it is to weep at joy, than to joy at weeping”. It seems that Keats is somewhat reflecting these lines the first line of this stanza “She dwells with Beauty–Beauty that must die”. Considering that even in our 268 book it made a indication that Keats was obsessed with death and melancholy, it is no surprise that he seems to be indicating that he needs that melancholy in his life to be balanced, that it deserves a thrown of its own. Melancholy can come and destroy joy instantaneously, but maybe joy needs to be destroyed sometimes and melancholy needs to fed, much as he indicates in the last line of the second stanza, that we should occasionally “feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes”.


      Melancholy is found in delight, he has his special place in the “temple of Delight”. Perhaps that is to say that we need the sadness and disparity to feel true joy.

      Comment by Em Lanagan on June 8, 2018

      I think his use of the word priest here is interesting. Obviously, as a Romantic poet, he is trying to figure out what to do with the separation between humanity and religion, yet he is saying to his own psyche that he will be the priest. It is an interesting way to phrase that he will build a temple for his soul in his own mind: he is taking responsibility of his spirituality in that way.

      By letting this place flourish in his mind, he can let love in, he can grow flowers that “will never breed the same”, he  can think and be free by letting his intellect and soul grow.

  • To John Taylor [Keats's Axioms in Poetry] (2 comments)

    • Comment by Doc Olsen-Smith on June 22, 2018

      [That if poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all. – However, it may be with me, I cannot help looking into new countries with ‘O for a Muse of Fire to ascend!’ If Endymion serves me as a pioneer, perhaps I ought to be content – I have great reason to be content, for thank God I can read, and perhaps understand Shakespeare to his depths;]

      Great passage for us to consider. The “leaves to a tree” image conveys what we studied as the organic principle last semester in ENGL 266–comparable to Wordsworth’s definition of poetry as the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” For both writers, the words and verses must come *naturally*–in the fullest sense of that important term in Romanticism. You might recognize the quote from Shakespeare’s Henry V, and the part about *perhaps* understanding Shakespeare is wonderfully modest and apt for our research.

      Comment by Tori Ward on June 22, 2018

      The idea that poetry should appear “almost as a remembrance” strikes the heart of not only Keats interactions with Shakespeare’s plays but with his exploration of humanity and the soul in his own poems. In the plays (pardon me while I liberally interpret the word “poetry” ) there are instances where Keats underlines parts of sentences and phrases, regardless of the plot context, because he is drawn to their philosophy or construction. These pieces are reflected, in one wording or another, across his letters and poems, which leads me to believe that when coming across this bits and bobs in Shakespeare, he experiences (as I have on other occasions) things that he’s always believed, now given new voice–a type of “remembrance”.  In his own poems, take Ode to a Grecian Urn, the narrator is interacting so fully and intimately with an inanimate object that it also brings to my mind a kind of remembrance–“this is what I will be one day”– and that connection, that “remembrance” allows the narrator to go on and wonder how and what it must be like, and how it may appear to him, and how he could use that appearance.

  • La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad (2 comments)

    • Comment by Tori Ward on June 8, 2018

      I think this last stanza captures the humanity and the different facets of the human mind that Keats has been trying to explore. In the odes and his other poetry, common themes he explores are faith, divinity, our concept of transcendence and what that means, and our concept of death and how our minds deal with it. Here, he seems to be conjecturing at what it’s like to be a being capable of forward and backward thought. It reminds me of Burns’s To A Mouse–the farmer almost envies the mouse because it doesn’t ever seem to reminisce, whereas he is haunted by the ability to. Here, in Keats last stanza of La Belle, I see echoes of that sentiment. This is the answer to the beginning of the poems “what could ail thee?” it doesn’t have to be a what–a quantifiable measure or incident. To be human is to be plagued at all times by one thought or another, and this stanza, especially “Though the sedge is withered from the lake, / An no birds sing,” capture that feeling.

      Comment by Em Lanagan on June 15, 2018

      In Two Gentlemen of Verona, Keats annotates the line “The air hath starv’d the roses in her cheeks and pinch’d the lily-tinture on her face'(56-57). This stanza seems to correlate with this line exactly, for they are both talking about someone fading away. I tend to look at this poem from a very meta point of view: that it is not just about being deceived by women (Keats did have an aversion to women as seen in letters he wrote) but it is about being deceived by the idealness of organized religion. The speaker of the poem is dedicating a lot of time to the woman just for her to lure him into seeing the reality of the world. The woman abandoned him much in the same way that some saw that religion/God had abandoned Earth.

  • To George and Thomas Keats [Negative Capability] (1 comment)

    • Comment by Courtney Otto on May 17, 2018

      It would seem that Keats believes that poetry is not intended to be logical but to be emotional and beautiful. In this letter he seems to define a line between him and his acquaintances, in that they are unable to look past logic because they are uncomfortable with uncertainty. This would be a quality which Keats may not enjoy in the company he keeps. One of the more intriguing and defining characteristics of poetry, and poets themselves, would be negative capability. Poetry is not often confined by anything but imagination and so it is necessary to look past uncertainty, or mystery, in order to see the beauty of it.

  • To John Hamilton Reynolds [Milton, Wordsworth, and the Chambers of Human Life] (1 comment)

    • Comment by Courtney Otto on May 31, 2018

      It seems that the Chambers of Human Life are a truly universal journey most travel. To begin in a chamber of patient, willful ignorance and move on to the second chamber in which we become aware of both the beauty and the darkness in life. The third chamber is one of wisdom where experience and the acquisition of knowledge lead to love and friendship. Keats finds that each individual travels the chambers uniquely, but humanity experiences the journey similarly. There is a beginning, middle, and end which all present themselves as we become further educated and experienced in life. Throughout that journey many realize the value of knowledge, not in a singular education but in any and all knowledge. The truly great minds are those who are never wholly satisfied with there education and continue to thirst for more.

  • To Benjamin Bailey [The Authenticity of the Imagination] (1 comment)

    • Comment by Courtney Otto on May 10, 2018

      In Keat’s letter to Bailey, he speaks with great importance, of their friendship. Keats seems to have a great understanding of Man’s nature. An example of this is in the line, “… two Minds meet and do not understand each other time enough to prevent any shock or surprise at the conduct of either part…”. Keat’s uses Bailey’s conflict with Haydon to present the idea that many are unable to see beyond their first impression of another. To dwell on first impressions will likely cause hurt from either party. He seems to know both Bailey and Haydon well enough to have decided that Haydon was not a valuable acquaintance while Bailey is a great friend.  Keats goes on in his letter to propose that “Men of Genius” do not have any individuality. This may be because a mind overflowing with logic may not allow themselves to emote strongly, they seem to lack passion and imagination. It seems to follow, that the greatest minds are those that possess both logic and passion. He relates this idea back to Bailey and Haydon’s conflict in the line, “Can it be that even the greatest philosopher ever arrived at his goal without putting aside numerous objections?” Keats questions the value looking past objections as this might lead to a greater conclusion. This leads to the question of whether sensation or thought will lead to the happiest life.  He seems to conclude that both sensation and thought are essential for eternal Happiness. He ends the letter begging Bailey to look past any surface impression of coldness to see that it is only a short tragic affliction and not to be attributed to his feelings toward Bailey. It seems we may surmise that Bailey could not see past a cold attitude from Hayden as his mind was likely one drowning in logic rather than passion. It is likely Keat’s hope to display his and Bailey’s ability to balance both logic and passion in order to overcome conflict in initial impressions. In his way he is saying that Imaginative, complex minds may have greater success in achieving eternal Happiness.

  • To Richard Woodhouse [A Poet Has No Identity] (1 comment)

    • Comment by Em Lanagan on June 22, 2018

      [I mean that sort of which, if I am any thing, I am a Member; that sort distinguished from the wordsworthian or egotistical sublime; which is a thing per se and stands alone]

      I find it interesting that throughout most of his letters he pushes back the idea of being a Wordsworthian or even giving some sort of credit to him at all. Keats’s idea of a poet is so meta and nonobjective. It makes me wonder if his aversion to such labels has only to do with Wordsworth himself or more the idea that he wants to be an individual poet; he seems to be implying that he doesn’t want to be an elitist or an egotist. However, I should say that I imagine a lot of these poets read Wordsworth to the extent that Keats studied Shakespeare. Influences of Shakespeare can be seen in many of Keats’s poetry just the same as influences of Wordsworth can be found in a Wordsworthian esc poem.


      Later in this letter, Keats writes that “A poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence; because he has no Identity…”. I would argue that maybe this is why Keats gets so heated over poets labeling themselves in a certain way. He also mentions in another letter that poetry is to come naturally…so maybe poets aren’t poetical because it is just in their nature to be the way that they are? Just thoughts of mine that went through my head while reading this particular letter.

  • To John Hamilton Reynolds [A Head of Shakespeare] (1 comment)

    • Comment by Doc Olsen-Smith on May 9, 2018

      [this head I have hung over my Books]

      What a nice act to ponder as we set about our work of marking up Keats’ marginalia to Shakespeare. The “head” probably refers to a portrait rather than a bust, since he refers to hanging it. That Keats has selected it for prominent display over his books in his workspace really conveys his enthusiasm for the Bard, and  the desire for inspiration that comes from admiration for a major artistic predecessor. Think of it, at this stage (April 1817) he had not yet written ANY of the poems that we read and discussed in ENGL 268–they won’t come until several years later. He was reading Shakespeare, though–closely, and by this point he had inscribed most or all of the marginalia into the edition we’re studying. According to the front inscription in Vol. 1, he presented the heavily marked set as a gift to his friend Joseph Severn the very month he wrote this letter. It was Severn who painted the picture of Keats displayed at the project gutenberg edition of his letters, with (guess who?) hanging on the wall above.

      By the way, the complete set of Shakespeare can be viewed here (it takes a moment to load): https://iiif.lib.harvard.edu/manifests/view/drs:14637636$1i

  • To John Hamilton Reynolds [Wordsworth's Poetry] (1 comment)

    • Comment by Em Lanagan on May 24, 2018

      Keats, as we have read through the last few of his letters to his friends and such, seems to be really formulating his main ideas on what makes true art. So far, he has deduced down some of his thoughts to say this, that “Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul, and does not startle or amaze it with itself–but with its subject. Coming from just reading the “Negative Capabilities” letter, it appears that this is not something new he is feeling is actually growing off of it. In that letter, he talks about the painting Death on a Pale Horse, and claims that it is beautiful, but it doesn’t make the viewer think deeper than that. There was no second coming of thought from that picture, it wouldn’t keep someone up as they decipher what it means. To Keats, that made a piece of art but not true art. In this section, Keats is now arguing that a poem should not beg to be read or deciphered, it should instead be beautiful in its content matter, not in the fancy words or other poetic elements it uses.

Source: http://solsensmith.com/493readings/all-comments/