Topic :-‘ Keats’s Sensuousness’
Name :- Upadhyay Devangana S.
Sub :- the Romantic Literature
Paper :- 05
Std :- M.A. Sem-2
Roll No :- 06
Submitted to :- M. K Bhavnager University
-: Keat’s Sensuousness :-
Keat’s short life was perceived by those
Who knew him to be of unusual intensity;
It insisted on being recorded in many ways, from the
Attempt to capture his ardent look with pencil
Or pen to the watchful preservation of his hastiest
Scrap of verse…..
English romanticism attains in Keats the final stage of its progress. Keats grew to be a poet in the atmosphere of romanticism dominate by Wordsworth and Coleridge. He felt their great influence and in the fervor of enthusiasm wrote, ‘Great spirits now on earth are sojourning.’ The traditions of the great romantic poets were carried forward by Keats There traditions reached their culminating point in his poems. All the qualities that characterized the romantic movement during the early nineteenth century found their culmination in Keat’s poetry. Since in his poetry we notice both romantic and classical features, it is necessary for us to differentiate between classical and romantic poetry. Romantic poetry aims at the complete expression of the individual as compared to classical poetry which aims at the expression of social experience.
Romantic poetry is marked by heightened sensibility and imagination, while classical poetry is marked by a sense of balance and proportion. Romantic art creates the kind of beauty which is strange, mysterious and uncommon; classical art tries to create the kind of beauty which is orderly, familiar and significant. Repose satisfies the classic; adventure lays emphasis on individual talent. In spite of the fact that in Keat’s poetry there is a fusion of both romantic ad classical qualities, he is most romantic of all the romantic poets of his times. H is is purest poetry. Let us now analyze the romantic qualities in Keat’s poetry.
All the romantic poetry had love of Nature and Keats was also a great poet of Nature. He had loved Nature for her own sake without finding any mystical meaning as Wordsworth found in the objects of nature. He was tremulous with joy at the presence of nature’s loveliness and charms. There was not a mood of earth he did not love, not a season that did not cheer and inspire him. For him the poetry of earth was never dead. He was in his glory in the fields. The humming of the bee, the sight of the flower, the glitter of the sun seemed to make his nature tremble. He was so deeply fascinated by Nature that he composed wonderful descriptions of the beauties of nature.
Romanticism had its roots in the soil of melancholy and weird sadness. In Keat’s poetry the note of melancholy and sadness is at many a place. We hear it only in La Belle Dame Sans Merci, in the Ode to a Nightingale, Ode to Melancholy, but also in poems dealing mainly with Nature. The poet strikes this sad note of despair in the following lines from Ode to a Nightingale:
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond tomorrow.
The Indian Maid’s lament in Endymion is particularly representative of this haunting note of sadness in Keats’s romantic poetry:
To sorrow I bade good morrow
And thought to leave her far away behind
But cheerly, cheerly,
She love me dearly
She is so constant to me, and so kind
I would deceive her
Bt ah! She is so constant and so kind.
· Keats’s Sensuousness
The term ‘sensuousness’ in poetry implies that it is related, not to didacticism, but mainly to the task of making a strong appeal to the senses of sight, he arms, small, taste and touch and employs techniques which simultaneously exploit the sensuous use of language ( among them, rhythm, alliteration, assonance and onomatopoeia, generating clusters of mouth filling sounds). A complicating factor is that in the past there has been a strong tradition of Christian asceticism, warning people against the seductions of the senses. However, it was Milton who declared that poetry should be ‘simple’, sensuous, impassioned, and so various poets have attempted to give extreme aural richness to poetic diction.
Among all these poets Keats remains unparalled for the sensuous impact of his verse. What creates the impression of Keats’s supremacy is partly the sheer abundance of Keats’s sensuousness. He made an excellent use of all the genius. “It was a temper in Keats”, says Stop ford A. Brooke, “of unruffled pleasure, sensitive, girl-like sensuous pleasure in beauty and in the consolation of beauty to the soul. He flies from one beautiful object of beauty to another in a butterfly fashion, tasting and sipping honey and little caring to settle upon anyone. He is thus completely and frankly sensuous in his attitude towards Nature”. Keats’s friend Haydon also bears testimony to the sharpness of his sense percetions:“ The humming of a bee, the sight of a flower the glitter of the sun seemed to make his nature tremble; then his eyes flashed, his cheeks glowed, and his mouth quivered”.
· Keats as the most sensuous of English poets
At the beginning of his review of Keats’s poems and letters (1880), included in Essays in Criticism : Second series, Matthew Arnold wrote:
“No one can question the eminency, in Keats’s poetry,
Of the quality of sensuousness Keats as a poet is abundantly,
And enchantingly sensuous; the question, with some people,
Will be whether he is anything else”.
This impression does, to some extent, still persist that Keats was above all else a poet of sensuous experience, a poet who early in his career once proclaimed, ‘O for a Life of Sensation rather than of Thoughts’! (Keats’ letter to Bailey, 22 November 1817) Sensuousness is the part and parcel of Keats’s genius. Recently an anonymous reviewer in The Times Literary Supplement, nearly a hundred years after Arnold’s essay spoke of ‘the fleshly, sensuous, pictorial, unreflective nature of Keats’s verse:
Fleshly’ is a fair and obvious epithet for Endymion, and the truth of the second and third of those adjectives is evident even to a casual reader. Keats is the most sensuous of English poets, although other poets are quite as sensuous, in their various ways what creates the impression of Keats’s supremacy in this respect is partly that the other poets are often doing additional things at the same time, whereas in his the sensuous tends to be isolated: they may put the experience in a critical framework, whereas he tends to relish it relatively uncritically. In other comparable poets the abundance of sensuousness is frequently the cumulative effect of extensive passages of writing, in Keats’s mature style what is so particularly remarkable is the richness of sense impression and sensation that he continually compacts into a few words – into such characteristic lines as.
1. ‘Mid hushed, cool-rooted flowers, fragrant-eyed,
Blue, silver-white and budded Tyrian,
2. The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
The two brief quotations from the Odes just offered clearly illustrate the variety of diverse sense impressions, often in swift succession, that are so frequently evoked. In the first quotation, for instance, just thirteen words, there are references to colour, shape, scent, coolness, and even an odd, but characteristic, suggestion of silence.
· Density of sensuousness as the most obvious quality of Keats’s poetry.
Keats is not philosophical poet as Milton and Wordsworth are. Even then we notice his concern about the mystery of human life both in his poetry and letters. In the process of throwing out scattered guesses and observation Keats touches on those problems of human life which have concerned the philosopher and the moralist. Yet a whole side of his work is strong in sensuous descriptions and does not seek to probe the mystery of life. In this connection David Masson writers,” The most obvious characteristic of Keats’s poetry is certainly its abundant sensuousness”. Some of his finest little poem are all but literally lyrics of the sensuous embodiments of the feeling of ennui, fatigue, physical languor, and the like, in tissues of fancied circumstance and sensation. In following his in there luxurious excursions into a world of ideal nature and life, we see his imagination wining about, as if it were his disembodied senses hovering insect-like in one humming group, all keeping together in harmony at the bidding of a higher intellectual power, and yet each catering for itself in that species of circumstances which is its peculiar food.
· Keats’s use of all five senses in his poetry :-
More than Wordsworth and Shelley, Keats reveled in sensuous pleasures of life. In Wordsworth the dominant sense is sight. He becomes a mere epicure of visual sensations, but he has not the falcon’s eye that Dorothy noted and admired in Scott. J. C. smith tells us that other senses save the sense of sight do not have a fair play in Wordsworth’s poetry. In Shelley’s poetry senses of sight and ear are dominant but he was not a pure sensuous poet because he made his poetry the instrument of social reforms. He is full of fire and fury against despots and tyrants, kings and priests. It goes to the credit of Keats alone that he enchantingly made use of all the senses in his poetry. He believed in a life of intuition, guided by high test of feeling, rather than a life lived by rule and devoted to purely mental activity. His art was full of passion; it was above all aspiration and desire, and the object of this desire was not the intellectual beauty of Shelley, but beauty that revealed itself to the enchantment of the senses. Keats’s poetry works by encouraging us to perceive - to feel – vivid and district sensuous impressions. We illustrate it from the Ode to a Nightingale:
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the doughs
The above lines taken from stanza 5 of the Ode to a Nightingale alludes to the sense of sight, or its absence (I cannot see); the senses of touch and of smell (soft incense); and by the end of the verse, with its evocation of ‘the coming musk- rose, full of dewy wine, the murmerous haunt of flies’, the senses of taste and hearing have also been incorporated. A general recognition of this quality lead to the consensus that Keats’s poetry is particularly successful at depicting, representing or conveying ‘reality’ or ‘experience’, persuades us to imagine that we are literally perceiving the objects and the experiences that the verse describes.
· His sensuous word – pictures :-
Keats’s poems are saturated with sensuousness. All the five senses of sight, smell, touch, and taste are enchantingly put together in his poems. In the following lines from The Eve of st. Agnes the appeal is to the eye, to the sense of touch, to the sense of smell, and to the ear:
Of all its wreathed pearls, her she frees;
Unclasps her warmed jewels one by one;
Loosens her fragrant boddice; by degrees
Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees:
As Madeline prepares for bed we are told how she Unclasps her warmed jewels one by one. Now the sensory qualities we normally associate with jewels are brilliance, colour, and to some extent perhaps, their tactile properties Keats might have positively suggested any one of these qualities by some epithet like ‘brilliant’, ‘dazzling’, etc., or he might have left the sensory association to our imagination as he does in the preceding line, ‘Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees’. In either case (and this is true of the different descriptive reference ‘wreathed’) there would probably have been some remoteness of suggestive effect. As it is, the perception communicated through ‘warmed’, that the jewels still retain something of the heat of Madeline’s body, not only leads us to experience the jewels of this particular episode, instead of precious stones in general, but also bring us into imaginary physical with living woman.
For Sound there is the ‘willful choir of small gnats in To Autumn, or the surging of the sea in one of his best sonnets:
It keeps eternal whispering around
For the sensation of touch there is;
Cooled a long age in the deep- deled earth
In the Ode to a Nightingale, or ‘the cold full sponge to pleasure pressed in Isabella.
The opening lines of the Eve of st. Agnes describe extreme cold:
St. Agnes’ Eve – Ah, bitter child it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a cold;
The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:
Numb were the Beadsman’s fingers, while he told
His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
Like pious incense from a censer old,
Seem’d taking flight for haven, without a death
Past the sweet virgin’s picture while his prayer he saith.
We see the sense of smell in there line:
She was a Gordian shape of dazzling hue,
Vermilion-spotted, golden, green, and hlue;
Striped like a zebra, freckled like a pard,
Eyed like a peacock, and all crimson – barr’d.
Again, for visual description we take an example from Lamina:
Full of silver moons that, as she breathed.
Dissolved, or brighter shone, or interwreathed,
Their lustres with the gloomier tapestries.
The sense of taste is well expressed in Ode to a Nightingale:
O for a breaker full of warm south:
Full of the true, blushful Hippocrene.
In La Belle Dame Sans Merci:
She found me roots of relish sweet
Of honey wild and manna dew.
· Instinctive response to life:-
Keats’s response to life was deeply instinctive, as he wrote to Benjamin Bailey, ‘I have never yet been able to perceive how anything can be known for truth by consecutive reasoning’. Although it is possible to dscern a pattern of thought in his work, the dominating lecture of his poetry is his delight in the senses. He welcomed every lovely sensation and reveled in it to the full whenever the opportunity occurred. We learn that nothing escaped him, the song of a bird and the undernote to response from covert or hedge, the rustle of some animal, the changing of the green and brown lights and furtive shadows, the montions of the wind just how it took certain tall flowers and plants- and the way-faring of the clouds. We can illustrate it from Endymion:
The nested wren
Has thy fair face within its tranquil ken,
And from beneath a sheltering ivy leaf
Takes glimpses of thee; thou art a relief
To the poor patient oyster, where it sleeps
Within its pearly house. – The mighty deeps,
The monstrous sea is thin – the myriad sea!
O Moon ! far – spooming Ocean bows to thee,
And Tellus feels his forehead’s cumbrous load.
C.N Herford is of the opinion,
‘poetry as it came to Keats, was not a spiritual vision as with Wordsworth, nor an emancipating vision, as with Shelley but a joy wrought out of sensations as exquisite as Coleridge’s by an imagination not weird and mystic like his but plastic and pictorial” “Whereas Wordsworth spiritualises, and Shelley intellectualizes Nature, Keats is content to express her through the senses.” As a sensuous poet he falls into line with Marlowe and Tennyson.
· Blending of sensuousness and contemplation in Keats’s poetry:-
This delight in pure sensations gave way to the perception of the necessary relation of beauty with truth, and both with joy. As his mind matured, his symyathies broadened, and after the death of Tom he murmured: ‘Scenery is fine but human – mature is finer. ‘Thus, we can say that there is a blending of sensuousness and contemplation in his poetry. Keats’s 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 mature performances in the Odes, for example, and Hyperion, sensuousness is penetrated by sentiment, voluptuousness is permeated by vitality, and aestheticism is tempered by intellectualism. In Keats’s place of poetry, the nucleus is sensuousness, but the superstructure has chambers or more abiding things and more permanent colours.
· Life must be undergone:-
Keats wrote in one of his letters, ‘Life must be undergone’. The carefree, sensuous delight of the earliest verse gave way to a sterner mood in The Fall of Hyperion On 10 June, 1818, he wrote to Bailey, ‘I would reject a Patriarchal coronation – on account of my dying day, and because woman have cancers’. This is the world’, he wrote to George and Georgiana in March 1891, after the trying ordeals of 1818, - ‘thus we cannot expect to give away many hours to pleasure – Circumstances are like clouds continually gathering and bursting – while we laughing, the seed of some trouble is put into the wide arable land of events – while we are laughing it spouts it grows and suddenly bears a poison fruit which we must pluck’. He wrote elsewhere: “I have been always till now almost as careless of the world as a fly – my troubles were all of the Imagination. Now I find I must buffet it – I must take my stand upon some vantage ground and being to fight – I must choose between despair and energy – I choose the latter – though the world taken on a quakerish look with me, which I once thought was impossible :
Nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass and glory in the flower
I once thought this a Melancholist’s dream
(Letter to Sarah Jeffrey, 31 May, 1819)
There was a tendency in ‘The Fall of Hyperion’ to be free from the hold of sensation. He was not satisfied with the life of grapple with the sorrows and suffering of the world. The spirit of humanitarianism that touched Shelley also came to have its influence on Keats. He started to cherish the vision of glorifying human life, and the grim truth began to
Have its way with the poet that higher scales of life could not be attained by anyone except those:
To whom the miseries of the world
Are miseries and will not let them rest.
The poet sought to give up the early ideal of sensuous poetry when he had once, written.
And they shall be poet kings
Who simply tell the most heart – easing things.
For something higher and noble. Now he realized that he could attain immortality better by moving to higher tasks than merely reveling in sensuous joys:
Yes, I must pass for a nobler life.
Of human heart.
If Keats had lived for a few years more, he would have surely succeeded in realizing his new destiny, would have been another Wordsworth in his impassioned love of humanity.
At the end we came to know that how Keats use sensuousness in his work, and how it appear in his poetry.