John Keats as an ode writer.

Originally ode was a Greek form of verse. It meant a poetic composition written to be sung to the music of lyre. So it came to be known as basically lyrical in character. But when ode form came into the hands of the English writers the idea of a musical accompaniment ceased to be considered essential. It came to mean a type of lyric poem only. Tus in the context of English poetry, ode can be defined as a lyric poem which expresses exulted or enthusiastic emotion in respect of a theme which is dignified, and it does so in a metrical form which is as a rule complex or irregular.

Characteristics of An Ode:
  • It is an address to an abstract object which means that it is written to and not written about.
  • It is a natural and spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings of it's writer. So it carries with it a degree of emotional depth and lyrical zeal.
  • The idea must be highly serious in character by virtue of its exalted and dignified theme.
  • To be able to do real justice to its dignified theme, its language and style should also be dignified and elevated.
  • The ode must exhibit a very clear logic in the development of the thought of its writer, whereby the ode can be long enough to explain the entire process of thought development. In this way an ode also becomes a study in the psychology of human mind
  • The ode can adopt any of the meters regular or irregular but the material pattern must be complex and elaborate.

John Keats, tried his pen at various forms of writing, but none of them yielded him as great success as the ode form. After every reading of his poetry his Odes alone fascinate our attention to the highest degree. Therefore Keats is always remembered chiefly as a writer of Odes. Not the only this, Keats also holds a leading rank among the ode writers of English literature. In our study here, we will analyse as to what qualities of his Odes make them so remarkable in themselves.

Unity of Impression in Keats’ Odes:
The first and foremost quality of his Odes is their unity of Impression. The major Odes of Keats---- “Ode to a Nightingale”, “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “Ode on Melancholy” have a common subject and theme. They have common mood to depict and last but not least in all these Odes the development of mood is more or less similar and the mood develops, in the shape of a drama, i.e. first the mood takes birth, it develops, reaches a climaxband finally the anti-climax takes place. Thus when we read Keats’ Odes, we feel that we are reading an abridged drama, and in this lay the secret of their success. In so short a form of writing, Keats has been able to give an impression of the kind, that Shakespeare produce. But it shall be an over simplification of facts if this statement of ours is taken to mean that Keats has reached the Shakespearean heights of literary perfection. No doubt it was Keats’ most cherished desire to be remembered with Shakespeare in the rank of men of letters, but unfortunately Keats could not perform this fear. Might be, if he had not died young, he could have been able to probe better into his poetic wealth.

Element of Drama:
After this unavoidable digression, let us come back to our main subject. We will study first, the dramatic development of Keats’ mood with reference to his Odes. The very opening stanza of  “Ode to a Nightingale” shows Keats in a mood of escape. He wants to trespass into the zone of forgetfulness, “Lethe-wards”. He longs for an intoxication, either “a Draught of vintage” or “a beaker full of the warm south”, to help him “fade away into the forest dim”, the forest that is the Nightingale's abode. He wants to cross over to the world of the”immortal bird” that “wast not born for death.” In the same way he says in all his poems.

Thus, we have seen that there is a unifying force behind the great Odes of Keats and that unifying force is there common theme and object, a common mood and above all a systematic and drama like development of the mood. This leads them their unity of Impression.

Style of Keats’ Odes:
And finally a word about the style of Keats in his Odes. Their style is as unifying a fact as their mood and theme. Every ode has the same perfection of language. Really, Keats loads every rift with ore. He makes use of a beautiful vocabulary but beauty is not divorced from thought. Every word is as full of meaning as it is beautiful. The language is concise, exact and concentrated. There is not a word which we can afford to dispense with, without doing damage to the very structure of the poem. The right word has been chiselled to the full. But virtue of these distinct features the odes of Keats carry weight with them.

No comments:

Post a Comment