May 9, 2018
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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.
[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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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”.
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.
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.
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June 8, 2018 at 2:31 pm
See in context
June 8, 2018 at 2:22 pm
June 7, 2018 at 5:20 am
June 7, 2018 at 4:56 am
May 30, 2018 at 5:26 pm
May 29, 2018 at 7:45 pm
May 17, 2018 at 2:53 pm
May 17, 2018 at 1:26 pm
May 17, 2018 at 4:16 am
June 22, 2018 at 3:42 pm
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.
June 22, 2018 at 2:52 pm
[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.
June 22, 2018 at 2:30 am
[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.
June 15, 2018 at 3:43 pm
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.
June 8, 2018 at 2:32 am
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.
May 31, 2018 at 2:52 pm
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.