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The nature of Romanticism brought about two significant ideas to the world of English literature: natural goodness of mankind, with a strong emphasis on the beauty of the natural world; and the ability to seek passion rather than reason, and imagination rather than logic. The English born poet, John Keats, was a clear product of the Romantic environment who, despite leading a very uneventful life due to his inevitable death, constructed poems that served to explore the imagination. Keats use of strong imagery ranges among all our physical sensations such as sight, hearing, touch and smell, and Keats combines these senses into one image to produce a sensual effect and shape our interpretations of him poems. This is evident in “Labelle Dame Sans Merci,” and “Ode to Autumn.”
‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci” is a ballad that takes us into a medieval world, where a knight is lulled to sleep in an “elfin grot,” by a beautiful woman, but awakens to find himself “alone and palely loitering..” enchanted and unable to leave. In this ballad, Keats expresses that the world of reality is bitter, and this had led some scholars to suggest that the beautiful yet seductive and treacherous woman symbolically represents his own mother, who had betrayed him in his early life, or his love Fanny Brawne, whom he frequently thought of as a kind of “belle dame” come to seduce him away from his art and poetry. However, in a personal perspective, Keats explores the oxymora of life and paradoxical nature of the world that’s filled with a series of inevitable contradictions. This is shown through the sudden transition of settings in the poem, where the knight falls asleep in an “elfin grot,” and wakes up “on the cold hill’s side.” The juxtapositioning of these settings also creates conflict between the world of reality and fantasy, which reflects the revolutionary nature of the Romantic period and its influence on Keats ideas.
Keats has presented his idea of paradoxical nature in the form of a ballad, where he uses a variation of the most common ballad stanza forms, rhyming a, b, c, b, as in “I see a lily on thy brow…moist and fever dew…cheeks a fading rose…withered dew.” He also creates a sudden short ending to each stanza after a long sentence, which creates a dramatic and unfinished ending, and also creates a feeling of emptiness and loneliness. The repetition of the first-person as the beginning of each stanza, as in “I see a lilly…I met a lady… I made a garland…” further creates emphasis on feelings of isolation, and gives us a sense of Keats emotions, where the sudden structural change reflects the paradox of life and Keats’ uncertainty to what life can bring.
The use of strong imagery is used to reinforce the hypnotic quality of the poem. For example, Keats makes reference to “faery’s child” and elfin grot” to create a magical atmosphere and appeal to our sense of imagination, where the woman, symbolizing imagination, takes him to an ideal world, and “lulled [him] to sleep.” However, the knight’s refusal to let go of the joys of the imagination destroys his life in the real world, as he “woke and found me here, on the cold hill’s side.”
Keats also deliberately uses ballad-style alliteration, such as “hair was long…foot was light’, ‘made sweet moan’, ‘wild, wild eyes,’ to create a passionate tone towards the woman and further reinforce the hypnotic quality of the poem. Towards the end, when the knight dreams of warriors “with horrid warning graped wide,” Keats uses this effect to create a sombre tone and a melancholy effect, which emphasise on the thematic purpose of the poem: pain of lost love and happiness in the outer real world. Using these two techniques, Keats compares the joy one finds in the inner world of imagination, with the fear of reality in the outer world. This shift from realism to the abstract was a clear feature of the Romantic period.
“Ode to Autumn” was written in September, and composed soon after Keats had been out for a walk on a lovely autumn day in England. Keats had always been inspired by nature, and as a result presented a detailed description of the natural occurrences that appeals to the reader’s senses in this particular poem. “To Autumn” to some scholars, can then be said to have no philosophical content, where the images portrayed, such as ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,’ represent their literal meaning of the beauty of Autumn and nature, a quality of the Romantic period. However, Keats also composed this poem at a time when he was suffering from a fatal illness, which can indicate that it was written to convey a sense of purpose to life and the worth of death, with Autumn representing the end of life, being just as important as Spring, representing a new life. ‘Ode to Autumn’ could also have been written as a message from Keats to appreciate the simple things life can bring every moment, and this is communicated using seasons of summer and autumn symbolising the different stages of life.
From a personal perspective, Keats main theme is that autumn is a season of joy and abundance. This is presented in the first stanza of the poem, where Keats uses strong and colourful imagery to celebrate the richness and beauty of the season, such as ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulnessâ€¦with fruit the vines that round thatch-eves run.’ Keats uses these descriptive words to appeal to the senses of the reader and create a humble, peaceful, yet lively atmosphere. It also creates a colourful image of the natural world, which was a significant concept of the Romantic Movement.
Keats also explores the concept of change and correlates it with the inevitable changes life can bring. He achieves this by structuring his poem in three stanzas that have variable rhyming, and also by comparing the quality of three distinct seasons. For example, in the first stanza, Keats introduces autumn as a time of warmth and harvest, where the bees enjoy ‘later flowers,’ and fruits are filled ‘with ripeness to the core.’ In his second stanza, though, Keats creates a melancholy atmosphere at the approach of winter, where swaths have their ‘twined flowers’ cut down, and the sky is empty as ‘thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.’ However, in the third stanza, Keats begins with a rhetorical question, ‘where are the songs of spring?’ to directly communicate with the reader, and advise ‘think not of them, thou hast thy music tooâ€¦’ we are told to enjoy the beauty of what we have now and listen to the ‘hedge crickets singâ€¦red-breast whistlesâ€¦’ for spring will come in time. As a whole, Keats blends the living and dying, and correlates joy with sorrow and song with silence to demonstrate the oxymora of life and the reality of the mixed nature of the world.
‘La belle Dame Sans Merci,’ and ‘To Autumn,’ are two examples of Keats work that explore the idealistic nature of Romanticism. Through these two poems, Keats explores the transience of beauty, as in ‘Labelle Dame sans merci,’ as well as the changing nature of the natural world, as in ‘To Autumn,’ and hence creates the notion that life is inevitable and that we must accept these changes in order to move on.
**Ode on a Grecian Urn**
What poem’s about – for your understanding
Exploration of the border between desire and fulfillment in human life.
The Portrayal of Eternal Innocence and the Sufficiency of Beauty in John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn”
life versus art.
Technique 1 and meaning
Beauty is truth, truth beauty that is all Ye know on earth and all ye need to know. Keats’ artistic of art viewed art as having the capacity to capture the eternal and universal essence of life. In the sensuous beauty of art like the urn one finds the essence of beauty and the essence of truth which are interchangeable.
Technique 2 and meaning
Uses symbolism: Symbol of eternity and an ideal reality, which “teases us” and creates an inner tension as we compare the ideal world of the “Urn” to the pain and suffering of ordinary life.
The “Urn” then becomes a “Cold Pastoral”; an object that awakens us sharply to the tragedy of our own mortality. The third stanza emphasizes the happiness and joy in the never-ending activity of the figures on the “Urn”. The poem emphasizes the main theme again in that the “Urn” figures act as a direct comparison to the change and mutability of ordinary life.”
How does the poetry of John Keats inspire us
Because of their lyricism, accessibility and imagery.
Most of his poems focus on beauty as a subject and theme, for beauty is a source of inspiration.
Shows how beauty is treated as a subject worthy of spiritual discussion – treats beauty as one of the mysteries of life, which he seeks to understand through his verses.
Ode on a Grecian Urn – similar to la belle – both emphasise on beauty – abstract idea of romantisicm
the urn symbolizes beauty – it is the “still unravished bride of quietness,” meaning it is unsullied by time.
Keats uses images of silence to emphasize that the urn is eternal: “foster child of silence and slow time.”
The paintings on the urn, which consist of various images of “deities or mortals, or of both” are described as a “flowery tale.” These paintings or carvings were lovely enough to inspire Keats to write this poem, or at least to use it as a metaphor for beauty.
Greek gods and goddesses are immortal ideals of human beauty, and Keats evokes them to create a sense of timelessness. Furthermore, this timeless quality shared by the gods and the urn itself is an essential quality of beauty.”
Also uses paradoxes and opposites to convey paradoxical nature of life:
the discrepancy between the urn with its frozen images and the dynamic life portrayed on the urn,
the human and changeable versus the immortal and permanent,
participation versus observation,
The poem titled “Ode on a Grecian Urn” was written by a twenty three year old, John Keats during a very chaotic time of his life. During that time his brother tom had died and he had met and tragically had fallen in love with Fanny Brawne–his next-door neighbour whom he was unable to marry due to his illness. Keats attempts to put his concerns and feelings about living, love, art, religion, death and eternity upon a Grecian Urn.
“Ode on a Grecian Urn” represents a historical object of Greek civilization, an urn painted with the scenes from Greek tradition. At the beginning of the Ode, the poet is standing before an Urn, and speaks to it as if it were alive.he treats the urn not as a subject but like it is a human. He wonders about the figures on the side of the urn, and asks what legend they portray, and where they are from. Keats uses words “unravish’d bride” meaning a virgin bride, a bride who has not been taken though she is married. the poet is turning the vase and sees the picture on the urn that shows musicians and lovers in a setting of country beauty. the author tries to identify with the characters because to him they represent the timeless perfection that only art can capture. unlike the reality of living, the urn’s characters are frozen in time. the lovers will always love, though they will never consummate their desire. the musicians will always play under the trees that will never lose their leaves, and he is happy for the trees. nevertheless while the urn is beautiful and everlasting, it is not real or alive. the lovers, whele forever young and gappy will never really touch or become close. but because the times never change on the urn, they won’t see time go by, and they will be young forever.
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