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Showing posts with label John Keats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John Keats. Show all posts

Friday, May 7, 2010

How Autumn is Personified in keats' To Autumn'

Personification is a figure of speech in which the attributes of a person are transferred to inanimate objects or abstract ideas. In other words, in this figure of speech inanimate objects and abstract ideas or qualities are spoken of as if they are persons or human being.

In keats’ ‘To Autumn’, Autumn is personified in various human shapes. Keats has used a number of imageries to give the autumn a concrete shape of a person.

The poem opens with the poet’s addressing to autumn. He addresses the season autumn in a way as if it were a living person. Then he considers it as the most intimate friend of the maturing sun. The autumn and the sun are given the human power of making friendship. Autumn has made a conspiracy or agreement with the sun ‘to load and bless’ the vines and frees with ‘grapes and apples’, and also to ripen all fruits to the ‘core’. So, in the first stanza autumn is seen to be an active person who is dutiful and enjoys his work very much.

In the second stanza, autumn is however given a totally different personality. Here autumn is in the form of a rural peasant woman, who is busy during the harvest. Autumn, at first is seen as a woman doing the work of winnowing that is separating the chaff from the grain. But she has become tired and is sitting carelessly which indicates her inactivity. She is careless because she is not afraid of the future as she has harvested abundant crops this year. She knows that much corn has already been gathered, threshed and winnowed. Secondly autumn is personified as a solitary reaper, who in course of her work is so overcome by the sleep inducing smell of poppies and falls asleep, with the result that the next row of corn remains unreaped.

Thirdly, autumn is personified as a gleaner. A gleaner is a woman who collects grains from the field when the crops have been removed. A gleaner may be seen walking along steadily with the weight of grains upon her head, crossing a stream. Giving the personality of a gleaner to autumn indicates that the harvest is almost over. Finally, autumn is given the personality of a cider presser, who sits by the cider press and watches patiently the apple juice flowing out of the press drop by drop.

Thus, in the second stanza autumn is given a concrete shape and a concrete personality. Autumn is seen in four different guises corresponding to the different occupations of the season autumn.

In the last stanza the poet is seen to be also speaking with the autumn. Autumn is seen to be as an unhappy man, because he is deprived of the beauties of spring. But the poet consoles the season, saying that it has its own songs which are no less individualistic.

Thus, throughout the poem autumn is given different personalities, related to the characteristics of this season.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ecstasy and Disillusionment in Keats’ Odes

In his Odes, Keats makes a balance between the flux of human experience and the fixity of art. Keats’ poetic imagination changes easily from the living world to the world of dreams, from art to reality, and from a place of ecstasy to a place of disillusionment.

In the poem, "Ode to a Nightingale," written by John Keats, the speaker attempts to use a nightingale as a means of escaping the realities of human life. The speaker wants to share his experience of listening to the song of a Nightingale and its effect on his mind. The time is night, a moon lit night and place is a green woods. There is a path in the woods which ends somewhere in the woods. In this romantic place and time, a Nightingale is “pouring forth” its soul. The song of the Nightingale has a hypnotizing effect on his mind. It appears in the poem that Keats is tempted into the nightingale's world of beauty and perfection. The speaker cherishes a longing to join the world of the bird which he wants to do through at first, country celebrations and secondly through drinks. The speaker visualizes the happy, excited, and ecstatic frenzies which he wants to have in order to join the happy world of the Nightingale.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee
,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,

But on the viewless wings of Poesy,

Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:

The speaker also gives the description of his actual journey into the dim-sum woods. But as soon as the speaker in the deep woods he can’t see anything in embalmed darkness. He can only guess. In this imaginative forest he finds all the sensual enjoyment of his life. In the darkness of the forest he is surrounded by all the pleasures that he would think to have in the ideal world. There are flowers and fragrance every where and the summer season of woodland takes him to the extremity of joy of living.

The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

At this point the speaker becomes so excited that he wants to die.

Now more than ever seems it rich to die,

To cease upon the midnight with no pain,

While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad

In such an ecstasy!



But all this ecstasy is followed disillusionment and the speaker comes down to reality. The world of imagination can shelter us for a short time, but it can not give us the solution of the reality of life.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam'd to do, deceiving elf.


Keats begins his “ode on a Grecian Urn” simply describing the various figures that are curved on its surfaces.

The first scene depicts musicians and lovers in a setting of rustic beauty. The speaker attempts to identify with the characters because to him they represent the timeless perfection only art can capture.

THOU still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:

The lovers will always love, though they will never consummate their desire. The musicians will always play beneath trees that will never lose their leaves.

The speaker ends the poem with "heart high-sorrowful." This is because the urn, while beautiful and seemingly eternal, is not life. The lovers, while forever young and happy in the chase, can never engage in the act of fertility that is the basis of life, and the tunes, while beautiful in the abstract, do not play to the "sensual ear" and are in fact "of no tone.

Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

In Ode to Autumn, the act of creation is pictured as a kind of self-harvesting Autumn is a season of ripe fruitfulness. It is the time of the ripening of grapes, apples, gourds, hazelnuts etc.


SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;

It is also the time when bees suck the sweetness from “later flowers” and “make honey.” Thus the autumn is pictured as bringing all the fruits of earth to maturity in readiness for harvesting. Despite the coming chill of winter, the late warmth of autumn provides Keats with ample beauty to celebrate: the cottage and its surroundings in the first stanza, the agrarian haunts of the goddess in the second, and the locales of natural creatures in the third. Keats experiences these beauties in a sincere and meaningful way.

But the music of autumn is ‘wailful’ and “mournful”. Also we have in the last stanza the “soft-dying day” after the passing of “hours and hours’. Thus the poem’s latent theme of mortality is symbolically dramatized by the passing course of the day. “And gathering swallows twitter in the skies” and “Birds habitually gather in flocks toward nightfall” means that the day is coming to a close. Also, birds gather particularly when they are preparing to fly southwards at the approach of winter.


While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

The sense of coming loss confronts the sorrow underlying the season’s creativity. When Autumn’s harvest is over, the fields will be bare, the swaths with their “twined flowers” cut down, the cider-press dry, the skies empty. This means that the season too is drawing to a close. A feeling of disillusionment is inevitable because of these suggestions.

From the above discussion we an say that the strain and stress of practical life makes him fly o the world of imagination for the time beings but he thinks of the short coming of the imagery world and finally accepts life as it is.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Comparison and Contrast between Keats' “Ode to Nightingale” and “Ode on a Grecian Urn”

“Ode to Nightingale” and “Ode on a Grecian Urn” are finest examples of pictorial quality and sensuousness. There are both similarities and dissimilarities in these odes.
As the theme is concerned both of the poems are similar. Both poems seal with a universal theme – mortal and immortal, transience and permanence.

Similarities on the basis of structure

The structure of the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” has a close parallel is that of its contemporary “Ode to Nightingale”. The “Ode to Nightingale” with its eight stanzas is longer but has the same kind of plan and development. The first verse provides the introduction in which the poet, feeling like one numbed or drugged hears the Nightingale singing of summer. Though no explicit questions are asked, the contrast between the exhaustion of the poet and the rapturous song of the bird is itself a question and provokes what follows. In the second to seventh verses, Keats develops the main subject which is the effect of the Nightingale’s song on him. He wishes in turn to fade away with the bird, to dissolve and forget his fever and his fret, to cease upon the midnight; then he rises to a more positive theme. He sees that the bird’s song belongs to a timeless order of things and the climax comes at the end of the seventh stanza with its recognition that song like this is beyond the grasp of death. The eighth stanza brings the conclusion in which Keats returns to reality and relates his enrapturing experience to it, recognizing that he can not for long share the ecstasy of the bird’s song. He has come back to where he started but something has happened which makes him unsure of himself asking whether he is awake or asleep. Keats has understood the bird’s rapture and entered into it and he sees more clearly the ambiguous nature of his relations to all such experiences. And just as in the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” Keats deepens the significance of his poem by his contrasts between ideal beauty and actual life, so in the “Ode to a Nightingale”. At each stage of the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” Keats transforms poetry to which he had given prolonged attention and which are very much his own.

Similarity on the basis of the use of symbol

Both of the odes are rich in the use of symbol. The central symbol of “Ode to Nightingale” is Nightingale. On the other hand the main symbol of “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is Urn. Nightingale symbolizes happiness. As the poem progresses, the song does not remain the song of a particular bird it becomes a symbol of the eternal beauty for the poet. It is in this sense that the poet cries out:

“Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird.”

The song of the bird will never come to an end because it has become one with the universal beauty.

In “Ode on a Grecian Urn” Keats calls the Urn as ‘unravish’d bride of quietness. The Urn is a concrete symbol of some vast reality which can be reached only through knowledge of individual objects. The Urn is also the “foster child of silences and slow time.”

Addressing the Urn Keats says;

Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity:

In “Ode to a Nightingale” the world of Nightingale is a symbol of perfection, happiness with its fullness. The Grecian Urn is the symbol of immorality of art.


Similarity on the basis of Personification

In this poem “Ode to a Nightingale”, Nightingale is personified. To the eye of the poet, the bird is a symbol of happiness and perfection. The Nightingale’s world is the ideal world where the poet wishes to go to free him from the pings and sufferings of the world. But just one word “forlorn” is enough to call him back from the world of Nightingale to the world of those who are suffering from palsy, growing pale, spectre thin and then dying. The world of Nightingale with all its charm can not take away from Keats’ heart his sense of oneness with his earthly fellow beings who are suffering from “fever and fret” of the world.

Same is true in the case of the Urn. In “Ode on a Grecian Urn'’ the Urn is personified. It stands for beauty and permanence. It contrasts with the transitoriness of human life which is full of misery. The poet knows the value of the Urn as a beautiful piece of art but at the same time he realizes that beauty is not the only thing of importance. The Urn though immortal is speechless. It lacks the warmth and vigor of life.

Similarity on the basis of sensuousness

Keats expands the range of his sensuousness from pictures of physical love to the pictures of natural beauties. In “Ode to a Nightingale” the poet looks for eternal beauty. The beauty of the song of Nightingale is beautiful from time immemorial. It delights all people in all ages every where. The Urn itself is a symbol of everlasting beauty. The painter may die but the beauty of the painting is everlasting. The poet may die but poetry is undying.

Similarity on the basis of temperament

In all his poems, the poet is Greek in temper and spirit. The poems convey the poet’s mind’s inborn temperamental Greek ness. He is a representative of Greek thought and culture in a sense in which Wordsworth, Shelley, Coleridge are not. In “Ode to a Nightingale” there are references of Dryad, Hippocrene, Dacchus, Lethe- which remind us of Greek mythology. The Urn itself is from Greek mythology. It immortalizes Greek joy, culture, religion. The Grecian Urn shows the poet as the true representative of Greek, as the Urn outlives Greek culture. The Urn is the beauty. It is as true as the Greek immortality.

Similarity on the basis of Disillusionment

Both poems show that escape from the real world is never possible. In “Ode to the Nightingale” it is the word “forlorn” that puts the clock black. In the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” it is the realization of the death like, machine like, warmthless, speechless silence of the Urn that brings Keats back into the world of reality.

Dissimilarities

The tone of “Ode to Nightingale” is pathetic and it is more subjective than “Ode on a Grecian Urn”. The tone is joyous and objective in “Ode on a Grecian Urn”. The overall tone of the poem is melancholic in “Ode to Nightingale”. The poem is also very subjective, because it draws reference from Keats’ own life. The expressions “fever and fret” the “spectre thin” etc clearly refer to the pathetic death of Keats’ brother. The poem is written immediately after the death of his brother. On the other hand Keats’ tone in “Ode to Grecian Urn” is very joyful. Here he celebrates the beauty of the Urn, the joyfulness of the lovers and the excitement of the religious sacrifice. He uses the word “happy” several times. More importantly unlike Nightingale it is not based on his personal loss. The poem was written after one of his visits to the British museum.

In these Odes the speaker wants to go beyond the better realties of the world by a kind of visionary imagination of the happy world. But when he comes to learn that the kind of imagination he is pursuing is a false temptation, he rejects the visionary imagination and comes back to harsh reality.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Views on Transience, Permanence, Art, Life, and Beauty in Keats’ Odes

Keats is a poet of beauty. But he is not a poet of sensuous and ephemeral beauty. He is a poet of permanent and ever-lasting beauty. As a poet of beauty, Keats considers art as the embodiment of that everlasting beauty. So, to Keats art represents a permanent, everlasting beauty which contrasts the transient human life. Keats’ view on art is mainly expressed through the contrast between the human life and art that are represented in the form of urn, song, and autumn.

Keats’ most significant views on art are expressed in his “Ode to a Grecian Urn,” In this Ode he makes a contrast between human life and the life of the Urn. Keats finds the Urn much superior to human life. As a work of beauty the Urn represents a permanent life.


In “Ode to a Grecian Urn,” Keats emphasizes the fact love, beauty and youth are all immortalized in the work of art. The beloved in the Grecian Urn is immortal; she will not lose her beauty.

She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,

For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

The lady’s beauty and youth have been made permanent in the Urn which is a wrought piece of art. His final comment about the Grecian Urn is:-

When old age shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,"

The poet discovers beauty which is unfading and truth. This beauty is undying in excellent artistic creations. He gets the very taste of eternity in the excellent work of art.

Comparing the transience of life with the permanence of a work of art, ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ asserts the quality of both the real world and the world of art. In ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’, Keats actually prefers the immortal nature of art over the mortal nature of human activities in the real world.

Although the urn exists in the real world which is subject to time and change, the life it presents and itself are static and unchanging; thus the bride is "unravished" and as a "foster" child, the urn goes through the "slow time" and not the time of the real world. The figures carved on the urn are not subject to time, though the urn may be changed or affected by slow time.
Keats views on art are also expressed in his “Ode to a Nightingale” as a work of beauty. Once again he makes a contrast between the world of the Nightingale which represents the world of art and the human world. In Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale," he contemplatse the essence of the nightingale and contrasts it with his own worldly state and the nature of mortal life.

In Ode to Nightingale the poet spotlights the beauty and fascinating charm of the bird’s song. He simultaneously underscores the mast fleeting nature of human life. Human youth and life itself are quite transient. Human beings grow up, flower up into blossoming youths and then fade and die. This is the nature of all human passions. Human beings do not have permanent beauty and permanent joy. Human life on this earth is ever a stratum of happiness and contentment. Human youth and human happiness soon disappear leaving behind an arena of desolation and dry dreariness. Keats refers to life in this world in the following lines of Ode to a Nightingale.

The weariness, the fever, and the fret

Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;

Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,

Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;

Here the poet refers to the importance of youth. Man’s weariness, his fret, palsy, grey hair, pale youth have been referred I order to show that life is just like a passing show on the earth. Again he says

Where but to think is to be full of sorrow

And leaden-eyed despairs,

Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,

Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

The poet has drawn the vivid picture of the mortal world. Here beauty fades, love pines, sorrow and despair seize men and to think is to be full of sorrow. Happiness in the earth is just a feeling thing. So, the idea of importance or transience is quite dominant in Keats’s poem.

But it is only the aspect of Keats’s poetry. He is occupied with the idea of impermanence, it is true. But that is not the only phase. We also represent the idea of permanence. He is searching of unfading beauty and permanence in the world of the Nightingale. Not with the help of intoxicating wine but with the fluttering wings of his imagination he will go to the world of the Nightingale, i.e the shelter of nature where he gets abode of permanence and then he will take refuge in the stratum of permanence. He says
Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,

Here we see that Keats passing from the world of transience to that of permanence. He discovers unerring permanence in the world of nature which does not change and betray.

According to Keats the Nightingale as a part and parcel of nature is immortal. A bird may die as individual but the species will continue from generation to generation. So, Keats adds:-


Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!

No hungry generations tread thee down;

The voice I hear this passing night was heard

In ancient days by emperor and clown:

The song of the Nightingale has immortal delight because it is an integral part of nature and nature does not die. The song of the bird stirs the poet’s imagination ad opens the “magic” casement of poetry. This is the theme of permanence as we find in Ode to Nightingale where the poet is transported to imaginative ecstasy.


As a romantic poet Keats imagines a pure and enduring life for all natural objects and natural creatures. In “Ode to autumn” Keats celebrates the season of autumn. Autumn is abstracted and given a universal form. The beauty and the activities of autumn are true for all ages.

The basic tension of the poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is between art and the human life. Art though unreal has permanence of beauty and the power to enrapture us through fanciful experiences which are richer than those of artificial life. He clearly portrays the shapes of the Urn which have an eternal life. In “Ode to Nightingale” the speaker wants to share his experience of intensifying to the song of a Nightingale and its effect on his mind. He states the unrestricted, spontaneous happiness of the bird. By simultaneously using figures as personifies of autumn, Keats raises them out of their transient human bodies and eternizes them.

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