5/18/2019

John Keats as a Sensuous poet. / Sensuousness of John Keats's poems.


What is "Sensuousness"?
Sensuousness is that quality in poetry which is derived from or affects the sense-of sight, hearing touch, smell and taste. By the
term "sensuous poetry is meant poetry which is devoted, not to an idea or a philosophical thought, but mainly to the task of giving
delight to the senses. Sensuous poetry would have an appeal to our eyes by presenting beautiful and colourful word-pictures, to our ears by its metrical music and musical sounds, to our nose by arousing our sense of smell, and so on.

All poetry proceeds originally from sense-impressions, and all poets are more or less sensuous. Impressions of the senses are in fact the starting-point of the poetic process for it is what the poet sees and hears that excites his emotion and imagination, and his emotional and imaginative reaction to his sense-impressions generates poetry. Wordsworth's imagination was stirred by what he saw and heard in nature-what he calls "the language of the eye and the ear", and ther he passed beyond his sense-impressions and constructed his poetic view of life and nature. Milton was not less sensitive to the beauty of flowers than Keats; the description of flowers in Lycidas and of the Garden of Eden in Paradise Lost bear witness to Milton's sensuousness.

Keats said, "O for a life of sensations rather than of thoughts" Sensuousness means appeal to our senses-eye, ear, nose, taste and smell, and sense of hot and cold. Other poets give only eye-picture. They are capable of giving other pictures.

Picture of the Eye
Keats is a painter in words. With the help of a mere few words he presents a solid, concrete picture:
(i) "Her hair was long, her foot was light
And her eyes were wild"

(ii) "I saw their starved lips in the gloom
with horrid warning gaped wide”.

These pictures are statuesque (like a stone statue). They remain firmly fixed in our memory.

Sense of Hearing
The music of the Nightingale produces pangs of pain in poet's heart.
(i) Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
(ii) The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:

Sense of Touch
The opening lines of La Belle Dame Sans Merci describe extreme cold:

The sedge has wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Calving called the line And no birds sing', as the best line in English literature.

Keats' Sensuousness
In Ode to a Nightingale, Keats describes many wines. The idea of their taste is intoxicating:

(i) O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrende.

In “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”
(ii) She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna dew,

Pictures of Smell
The poet can't see the flowers in the darkness. There is mingled perfume of many flowers:

Fast fading violets cover'd up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
Technicolor Pictures
Keats paints coloured pictures. The multi-coloured wines and flowers are painted with a colourist's delight:

Full of true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
The red wine makes the mouth purple

Ode to Autumn: A Remarkable Example of Keats Sensuousiess
In the Ode to Autumn, the season of autumn is described in sensuous terms, in which all the senses are called forth:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Autumn, to Keats, is the season of apples and moss'd cottage trees,
of fruits which are ripe to the core, and of later flowers for bees.

Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Autumn again is represented as a thresher, 'sitting careless on a
granary floor', and her "hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind" or as
a reaper:

Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies,

There is nothing in the poem about autumn being the prelude to
dreary winter or the symbol of old age; autumn to Keats is all ripe
fruits and ripe grains. Autumn also has music that appeals to the ear:

The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter the skies.

Keats' Epithets Rich in Sensuous Quality
Keats is pre-eminently a poet of sensations, whose very thought
is clothed in sensuous images. The epithets he uses are richin
sensuous quality- "watery clearness", "delicious face", "melodious plot", "azure lidded sleep", "sunburnt mirth", "embalmed darkness 'anguish moist". Not only were the sense perceptions of Keats quick
and alert, but he had the rare gift of communicating these perceptions by.concrete and sensuous imagery. How vivid and enchanting is the description of wine-bubbles in the line:
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim.

Keats' Sensuousness in Different Colours in his Matured Poetry
This delight in pure sensation was, however, but a passing phase
with Keats: As his mind matured, his sympathies broadened, and he
It at one with the human heart in travail. Sensuousness is still there
aving its fairy tissues as before but the colouring is different. In his maturer poems, it is gradually manifested with the stirrings of an
awakening intellect, and is found charged with pain, charged with
the very religion of pain. His yearning passion for the beautiful is transformed into an intellectual and a spiritual passion. He sees
things, not only in their beauty, but also in their truth. And it is partly
by reason of his perception of truth in sensuous beauty that Keats has become the, "inheritor of unfulfill'd renown"

That "sensuousness is a paramount bias" in Keats' poetry is
largely true; than of contemplation." Yet, like all generalised statements, these remarks are only partly true. "Keats' mind is mainly sensuous by direct action but it also works by reflex action, passing from sensuousness into sentiment. Certainly, some of his works are merely, extremely sensuous; but this is the work in which the poet was trying his material and his powers, and rising towards mastery of
his real ; faculty and his final function. In his maturer performances in the Odes, for example, and in Hyperion, sensuousness is penetrated.by sentiment, voluptuousness by vitality, and aestheticism is empered by intellectualism. In Keats' palace of poetry, the nucleus is sensuousness; but the superstructure has chambers of more abiding.things and more permanent colours”.

Sensuousness and Principle of Beauty
Keats was a worshipper of beauty and pursued beauty everywhere; and it was his senses that first revealed to him the of things. The beauty of the universe from the stars of the sky to the flowers of the woods-first struck his senses and then from the beauty perceptible to the senses his imagination seized the principle of beauty in all things. He could make poetry only out of what he felt upon his pulses. Thus, it was his sense impressions that kindled his imagination which made him realistic the great principle that "Beauty is Truth and Truth Beauty".

Conclusion
The imagination of Keats came to be elevated by his sense perceptions and sense impressions. His poetry is not a mere record of sense-impressions. It is a spontaneous overflow of his imagination kindled by the senses. He hears the song of the nightingale and is filled with deep joy which at once kindles his imagination. He has been hearing the actual song of 'a nightingale, but when his imagination is excited, he hears the eternal voice of the nightingale singing from the beginning of time. He sees the beauty of the Grecian Urn and of the figures carved upon it. His imagination is stirred, and he hears in his imagination the music of the piper:

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:

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