'A thing of beauty is a joy forever'. How far and in what ways does Keats communicate this belief in his odes. Emotion was the key element of any Romantic poet, the intensity of which is present in all of Keats poems. Keats openly expressed feelings ignoring stylistic rules which suppressed other poets.
Keat's poems display a therapeutic experience, as many of his Odes show a sense of struggle to accept, and a longing to search for an emotion which he could feed off for his eternity. As romantics emphasised beauty in order to replace the lack of religion. The quote 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever', I believe tormented him ever since he wrote 'Endymion', the Odes to be discussed are hence almost a progression of thought and understanding of his own beliefs.' Ode to Autumn' is perhaps the greatest of nature poems written, and I can only agree when Cedric Watts wrote that it is a 'richly resourceful yet alert and unsentimental'. Keats creates a sumptuousness which reflects the beauty he has found in Autumn.
The intonation within the first stanza is almost of excitement, as if this beauty has suddenly unleashed itself onto his senses, its effect is more powerful than the drug induced mood in 'Nightingale'. The first line introduces us to the personified autumn. The exclamatory phrase 'mellow fruitfulness' heightens the syntax tone immediately and prepares the reader for a stanza rich in tactile and visual images which intensify this opening. The beauty of autumn is emphasised through phrases like; 'ripeness to the core', 'swell the good', ' o'verb rimmed their clammy cells'. Keat's use of the adjective 'plump' as a verb excels this 'ripeness' and together intensifies the beauty, which is emphasised through the repetition of 'more' and 'still more'. Keats almost forces his subject at us.
The central stanza is almost a 'breathing space' for the reader, to interact with the poem. Keats creates a hypnotic mood almost lethargic. Keats achieves this through his language. The use of 'car less' and 'soft-lifted'. The alliteration of 'winnowing winds' and the assonance of 'sound asleep', almost attack our aural senses and draws us deep into an almost dream like state: 'Winnowing wind, or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep, Drowsed with the fume of poppies'. The use of 'drowsed' is deliberate and for emphasis, to achieve this tiredness, as does the sensual smells of 'poppies'.
The punctuation emphasizes the intonation. The pause after the 'poppies' is symbolic as it arouses us and tempts us to smell and hence we are enticed by the drug. The pause after ' floor', reflects the carelessness mentioned and because it's a natural process to pause after sitting. Keats is helping the reader to visualize Autumn's movements through the stanza. In this stanza the syntax is longer unlike the first verse. In the line ' or by a cider-press, with patient look' Keats creates balance with the pause, which implies order and emphasizes the patience, almost reflecting Keats studied view of Autumn.
The lethargic mood is increased in the second stanza, in the final line with: 'last oozing's hours by hours', as the vowel sounds soften the syntax, and the repetitive 'hours' almost drags the sentence along. The third stanza's sudden questions 'where are th songs of spring? Ay, where are they?' are too forceful and abrupt from the mood set in the previous stanza, it is almost annoying. It could almost be read as Keats projecting his thoughts, as if he was engulfed in Autumn's beauty that he forgot 'spring'. I believe Keats challenges us. We are so taken in with Autumn as he hypnotizes our thoughts, that he deliberately breaks our concentration as he too has realised that seasons change and we should change with them.
True, spring has its songs, but so does autumn! Keats realise's that this beauty will not last forever, as seasons change, but this change brings new beauty. The onomatopoeia in the third stanza instigates a more active tone, the increasing rhythm almost represents a celebration, for the 'Wailful choir the small gnats mourn' is contrasted with the 'loud bleat',' hedge-crickets sing', 'redbreast whistles' 's wallows twitter', almost as if nature has designed a percussion to celebrate winters arrival. Cedric Watts: 'The stanza's can be seen as movement throughout the seasons, beginning with pre-harvest ripeness, moving to the repletion of harvest itself, and concluding with the emptiness following harvest, but preceding winter'. Keats also first focuses on the vegetable world, then human activity in gathering the harvest and concludes to the world of animals, birds and insects. This progression is also in the senses, as Keats begins with tactile senses then visual and ends with auditory senses. This order reflects the message of beauty.
As beauty although a joy, does not last forever, Keats begins to realise this towards the end, and hence leaves us with the pre-winter glance, as a substitute joy. As we are assured that winter will have 'thy music too'! Therefore this natural beauty lasts all seasons, as nature resurrects it continuously. We, like Keats, must see this beauty first, for only then can it become a 'joy forever'.' The Nightingale' was held in high esteem by Keats. His ode, shows fascination with this bird's freedom and its joyful tune, oblivious to death. It is this tune which torments Keats.
The Nightingale here is seen as a representation of beauty. Throughout this ode Keat's mood fluctuates between realism and fantasy, this almost parallels the nightingale's song as it oscillates between tune and flight. Keats bombards us with negative images and enforces his mood of misery on us; 'aches', 'drowsy numbness ' 'pains'. The syntax length is long, hence it emphasizes the drowsiness increased by the pauses. The reference to 'hemlock I had drunk' and 'dull opiate' provides the escapism Keats wants, almost to flee to the bird in ecstasy. It is in the fourth stanza that he prefers to use inspiration instead, to reach the heights of the nightingale.
Keats deliberately confuses the reader's assumptions of the poem by introducing a melancholic mood. The 'melodious plot' is emphasised through the rhythm of the poem and the extended use of vowel sounds prior to the 'melodious plot. The repetition of 'happy' is almost a forceful emphasis to cancel the earlier negatives. Keat's distinguished use of paradoxes, is evident here too: ' 'tis not through envy of thy happy lot, But being too happy in thine happiness'. Keats has found joy in the innocence of the nightingale, who 'among the leaves hast never known, the weariness, the fever and the fret here, where men sit and hear each other groan'.
The bird is oblivious to the pain and death. The nightingale's song has been heard by himself 'emperor and clown' and also by the biblical 'Ruth', the beauty, its song has mesmerized and consoled many. I believe Keat's attempts to find a lasting joy in the nightingales song, hence: 'thou wast not born for death, immortal bird'. He wishes its song never to end, and when it flees the question 'Do I wake or sleep', I believe is Keats questioning, now that he is out of its trance, has he awakened to the reality of everyday existence. Where 'youth grows pale, and spent re - thin, and dies'? The deliberate punctuated pauses before the conjunction slows the reader and hence echos his brothers Toms death, soon to be his. Therefore the lines: 'Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, or new love pine at them beyond to-morrow', show the inevitable change of time and hence the loss of beauty.
Similar to the 'Ode to Nightingale' Keats went on to write 'Ode to a Grecian Urn', which has been acclaimed to be his greatest poem. The beauty of the Urn isn't natural, it is artificial, hence contrasting the 'nightingale'. As noted by Helen Vender, 'the urn suppresses hearing as the Ode to a Nightingale suppressed sight', the poems are almost a reflection, which therefore suggests Keat's struggle to find 'Beauty'. Keats questions immortality attainable through art. We are led into the poem with the paradox of 'still un ravished'. Keats adopts his familiar lethargic tone through the long syntax and alliterative vowel sound patterns, further emphasised by the assonance.
The peacefulness created lends the 'urn' the respect Keats feels it should have. This is thought is also evident in his modesty: 'A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme'. The 'urn' is immortal. It holds beauty in a frozen trance. the 'bold' lover' will never fade, even though 'never canst thou kiss'.
The season of spring is captured, the ''urn'' will never 'ever bid the spring adieu'. Keats asserts his envious tone through the repetition of 'happy', he relishes this life of the urn's world, of permanence. Beauty is trapped within the 'urn', 'fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare'. The 'urn' has everlasting love and nature. The two experiences which evoke joy.
This joy is interrupted by the perilous questions, as we visualize the ritual sacrifice, of a 'heifer lowing at the skies, and all her silken flanks with garlands dress?' It seems odd that beauty of the garlands is juxtaposed with death. The quote 'though silent form, dost tease us out of thought as doth eternity' is evidence of Keats humour which contradicts the sentimental mood created in the previous stanza. It is almost mocking, through the realms of reality he has found joy which echo's 'Ode to melancholy'. As we struggle to solve the 'motto' of 'Beauty is truth, truth Beauty', the inverted phrase I believe is also an echo, by the 'urn' itself which attempt to mock our efforts to try and capture the meaning of beauty.' Ode to Melancholy' is perhaps the most confusing in terms of subject, as this ode fluctuates between misery and joy, both of which are closely related.
The first stanza bombards us with negatives to almost force hise his depression on us. The repetition of poisonous imagery: 'wolf's bane', 'tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine', 'nightshade' emphasizes his suicidal state of mind. This fear is increased through the punctuation, as the pauses heighten the pace and emphasizes his struggle. Keat's use of paradoxical language is also uninteresting, from energetic 'twist' to the passive 'kiss'd'. The conflict of internal debate is obviously present in his ode. Towards the end of this first stanza he creates the lethargic intonation through the long assonance and vowel sounds, which suggest faint moans.
'your mournful Pysche, nor the downy owl A partner in your sorrow's mysteries'. The second stanza adopts a more self assured, stative tone. As the grammatically incorrect use of 'But' emphasizes the pivotal point in his train of thought. However it is through the centre of the second stanza where the line; 'Then glut... .' , introduces a more active mood. The 'droop-headed' and 'shroud' are all forgotten, the intensity of an angry 'mistress' takes over the melancholic mood.
Keats is almost fascinated that beautiful emotions can be drawn from the anger of 'peerless eyes'. There is beauty in all emotion, but as soon as Keats realise's this, reality intrudes once more, as this is 'Beauty that must die', for he understands that beneath all the joy there is misery and in this melancholy there can be found joy. This reversible phrase is more economically suggested in the oxymoron 'aching pleasure'. Keats highlights important words by capitalizing them. In this ode the main words emphasised were 'Beauty', 'Pleasure', 'Melancholy', 'Joy', four emotions which draw from each other. Keats shows indulgence in this poem, his message isn't clear as his other odes, for you either indulge in depression or in beauty, but the two are inseparable.
Therefore is beauty a joy? Modesty again opens the first stanza as he presents his Goddess Psyche, with these 'tuneless numbers'. He visualizes a 'Romantic' heaven, surrounded by 'deepest grass' and 'cool-rooted flowers'. He creates a peaceful environment through the visual colours of blue, silver-white', Keats contemplates whether love can last forever. The repetition of negatives heighten Psyche's status when he neutralizes these negatives by repeating that now he will be 'thy voice, thy lute... .' This almost becomes a religious experience for Keats as he worships Psyche. Finally he has found joy and wishes to interna lise this emotion in 'some untrodden region' of his mind, so this joy cannot escape, but even this emotion is branched with 'pleasant pain' again referring to 'Melancholy'.
Hence he is again in search, as he waits and hopes to 'let the warm love in!' . This emphatic statement is increased by the drowsy state achieved by the language; 'lull'd to sleep', 'quietness'. He realise's towards the end that love too changes just as 'breeding flowers, will never breed the same'. This mythological Pysche which symbolizes the human soul, is accustomed to suffering and loss despite being married to love, identifies well with Keats. As Psyche is left holding the lantern in search for her love, Keats is left questioning, searching for something to replace God, a beauty which lasts forever, which is immortal. It wasn't until reading the five odes in progression that I understood the message.
He attempts to replace unorthodox religion with emotional experience. His joyful experience is found through beauty. He attempts to define this beauty in terms of a 'nightingales song', Pysche's love, nature's beauty in Autumn, and artificial beauty in art. He also questions this beauty in 'melancholy'. Referring back to the question 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever', I believe it was written in naive knowledge.
As Keats realise's that this is not the case. True, beauty brings joy, but beauty fades, as life fades. Hence the seasons change, the nightingale flees, love fades. But, new seasons bring new beauty, a new bird sings the same song, the historical stories of the urn hold the same emotions, frozen in time, immortal.
Then does this suggest that beauty is immortal too? The quote from' Endimyon' can be argued 'forever', as the critics decide numerous meanings and interpretations. Perhaps Keat's struggle within the poems wasn't fluctuations of emotions on his behalf, but a mocking challenge to us, to argue, re-define and question our emotions and our defilement of beauty. Our forever is until we die, if we are not subordinated by melancholy towards our end, the joy of beauty for us, will last forever.