5/17/2019

John Keats as a poet of Beauty.


Beauty-the Dominant Passion and Theme of Keats' Poetry
Every poet is a lover of beauty-but he may have, and often has,
other interests and affections. Shakespeare was interested in the
drama of human life and in the play of human passions. Milton's
dominant interest was religion, though he was a passionate lover of beauty. Wordsworth and Shelley had other interests than mere beauty. But to Keats, passion "with a great poet, the sense of beauty overcame every other consideration". Beauty was, for Keats, the moving principle of life; in fact, beauty was his religion. He loved.beauty in all its forms and shapes -in the flower and in the cloud, in the song of a bird and in the face of a workman, in a work of art and in tales of romance and mythology. . And all his poetry from Endymion to Hyperion has one dominant theme-viz, Beauty.

The Mighty Abstract Idea of Beauty- Aestheticism Grows
Intellectual
But he went beyond mere sensuousness, though he never lost the intense appeal of sensuous beauty. The song of the nightingale was as joyful and as entrancing as before, but it brought to him by contrast the thoughts of the pains and sufferings of human life. His
aestheticism grows more and more intellectual, till at the last stage he imaginatively passes beyond the world of senses to the world of eternity. At first, he loved and rejoiced in concrete things of beauty that appealed to the senses; then he worshipped "the mighty abstract idea of Beauty", that appealed to the mind and imagination. This passion, what Shelley calls 'intellectual beauty' was the spiritual passion of Keats. What is it that he sings 'in his great Ode to a Nightingale? Is it merely the song of the nightingale that delighted his ears on a particular evening? It would be that, if he wrote it early in his career; but he had passed beyond that stage. The song of that particular nightingale, which he heard, is merely a symbol; it is the
symbol of the universal Beauty which is eternal:

Thou was not born for death, immortal Bird!

Keats would die, that particular Nightingale would die, but 'the
song of the Nightingale i.e. the beauty that the song represents would continue forever. The poet, in a sudden sweep of his imagination, has passed from the world of senses to the world of eternity, where the Nightingale would sing forever. Beauty transcends time and space
Keats was not an Epicurean, feasting only on the beauties of life, nor an escapist, flying away from the realities of life.

Sensuous Beauty
Keats was extraordinarily endowed with a native gift-viz, that
of feeling acutely with his senses. All his five senses reacted quickly
to the beauties of the external world, and these sense impressions are transmitted into poetry by his imagination. The first line of Endymion strikes the keynote of Keats' poetry:

A thing of beauty is a joy forever:

Even in the midst of his pains of disease and his sufferings and
disappointments of life, this joy of beauty came to him through his
senses. In one of his early poems-Sleep and Poetry, he wrote:

First the realm I'll pass
Of Flora, and of old Pan: sleep in the grass,
Feed upon apples, and strawberries.,
And choose each pleasure that my fancy sees;

So Keats drank in the beauty of the external world with all his
senses, and his whole being was excited by it and he sang out with
wonder and delight,

Many the wonders I this day have seen;
The sun, when he first kist away the tears
That filled eyes of Morn; the laurell'd peers
That from the feathery gold of evening lean;
The Ocean with its vastness, its blue green
Its ships, its rocks, its caves, its hopes, its fears
Its voice mysterious.

In one of his last poems-Ode to Autumn, he describes the
sensuous beauty of the season-but here the tone is one of joy mixed with the sadness of thought:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
…………………………...………
…………………………………...
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

The poet thinks of the passing away of beauty, though he soon
overcomes the feeling of sadness:

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too.

Thus throughout his brief career, Keats' poetry revealed the sensuous aspect of his love of beauty.

Beauty in Life Taken as a Whole
He saw that life was full of sufferings, and he himself was a prey to pain and disease. Where is then, beauty in life? He takes up this question in his Ode on Melancholy. He finds melancholy even in the sweetest things of life; even when a man loves most fondly, when he bursts "joy's grape against his palate fine," veiled Melancholy comes.and disillusions him. In fact, Melancholy dwells with Beauty
Beauty that must die. Keats has realised the truth of life, because he has passed through its agonies. Pain and suffering is not to be divorced from joy, for they together -sorrow and joy- make up
life, just as days and nights together make up time. It is the sum of things that is to be viewed, not a few things, but all things, and this complete view reveals the ultimate and universal beauty.
involves", says Middleton Murry, "a profound acceptance of life as it
is-a passing beyond all rebellion, not into the apathy of stoic resignation, but into a condition of soul, to which the sum of things
foul or fair, high or low, rich or poor-is revealed as necessary
and true and beautiful." Keats accepts life as it is-and still can
affirm that though forms of beauty are fleeting, the principle of beauty that is behind the universe is eternal.

Identity of Beauty and Truth
Keats often asked to himself the question, "Where are the songs
of Spring?" Indeed, the songs of spring do not stay; beauty does not
keep her lustrous eyes for long. So beauty is transitory, fleeting, -it
remains for a time and passes away. It is experience of his senses. But his imagination revealed to him the essential truth about beauty. In the Ode on a Grecian Urn, he first tells of the beauty that is seen by the eye:

What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Then imagination reveals to the poet, the beauty which is beyond
the senses:

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone.

So, imagination reveals a new aspect of beauty, which is
sweeter' than beauty which is perceptible to the senses. The senses perceive only the external aspect of beauty, but imagination
apprehends its essence, and 'what the imagination seizes as beauty (Keats says) is truth. Hence Keats declares emphatically:

Beauty is truth, truth beauty,- that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

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