Keats “Ode On A Grecian Urn”: Analytical View

To Keats, the Urn stands in a special sacred relation to a special kind of existence and keeps this relation immaculate and intact. The Urn is a concrete symbol of some vast reality which can be reached only through a knowledge of individual objects which share and reflect its character.

W. J. Neatby - Keats - Isabella

W. J. Neatby – Keats – Isabella (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are, Keats says, beyond the reach of fate, somethings which deserve a religious respect and devotion and belong to the essential elements of the world. These things are “silent as a consecrated urn.” They do not speak directly to us, but, like an urn, have a message which we feel to be holy. There are times marked in the natural order of the universe when these powers keep state, and it is then that we must get into touch with them and see what they have to reveal.

His ideal world was not a scheme of abstractions but of a source of living powers beyond the senses, and therefore silent, but more real than the most entrancing gifts of the senses through the devotion which it commands and the assurance with which he believes that it endures forever. Great art can’t but suggest something beyond its immediate or even its remoter meanings, an indefinable “other”, which is the most important thing it has to give. In our apprehension and enjoyment of this, we almost forget the details of an actual work of art and pass beyond them into a state which may be called silence because it speaks not to the ear but to the spirit. If we feel this in reading poetry, we can imagine how much more keenly Keats felt it in writing. In his inspired moments of composition, he sought to give expression in audible and musical words to that other indefinite and yet more powerful music which makes what it is.

Keats notion of silence is combined with his notion of time which indeed receives fuller attention, as if it were even more important, and so perhaps it is. The paradox of all art is that it gives permanence to fleeting moments and fixes them in an unchanging form. Thus, with this idea Keats is in part concerned and his ideal Urn embodies it. Preserved and sanctified by time, it keeps its original freshness and appeal nor is its permanence cold and inhuman. The work of art has its own life which is more vivid than the actual life on which Keats touches in the third stanza. The paradox of the Urn, as of all true works of art, is that it transcends time by making a single moment last forever and so become timeless  but not due to the material in which the artist works. The timelessness of his achievement is a true reflection of something known to artists when they work at the highest pitch of inspiration. In the act of creation, when all faculties are harmoniously at work together, time does not so much stand still as vanish. The artist is not conscious of it because he is caught in an activity so absorbing that it is complete in itself, with no sense of before and after.

English: John Keats by Joseph Severn 1819. Oil...

English: John Keats by Joseph Severn 1819. Oil on ivory miniature, 105×79 mm Deutsch: John Keats, gemalt von Joseph Severn, 1819 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Keats expresses his willingness to leave his own special approach to experience through the imagination for something like philosophy and his refusal is based on the belief that the mystery of things can’t be mastered by an act of will but forces us “out of thought,” that is, from ordinary ways of thinking into the approach of the imagination. By thought he means the discursive, puzzled, analytical activity of the intellect. Keats was concerned with the relations of truth and beauty, and how he developed his own theory about them. This theory maybe expressed in something like the following form: Truth is another name for ultimate reality, and is discovered not by the reasoning mind but by the imagination. The imagination has a special insight into the true nature of things, and Keats accepts its discoveries because they agree with his senses, resolve disagreeable discords, and overwhelm him by their intensity. He is convinced that anything so discovered is true in a sense that the conclusions of philosophy are not. Keats calls this reality “beauty” because of its over powering and all-absorbing effect on him. In fact, he substitutes the discovery of beauty through the image (the discovery of facts through reason), and asserts that it is a more satisfactory and more certain way of piercing to the heart of things, since inspired insight sees more than abstract ratiocination ever can. Keats concern is with the imagination in a special sense, and he is not far from Coleridge in his view of it. For him it does much more than imagine in the ordinary sense; it is an insight so fine that it sees what is concealed from most men and understands things in their full range and significance and characteristic of the rational of poetry is that through the imagination it finds something so compelling in its intensity that it is at once both beautiful and real.

It is a theory of art, a doctrine intended to explain his own creative experience. He was increasingly conscious that art is not everything, and in his last two years he became more uneasy about the detachment from life which his work imposed on him. The belief that “Beauty is truth, truth beauty” is true for the artist while he is concerned with his art. It is no less true that, while he is at work, this is all that he knows for certain, and all that he needs to know for the proper pursuit of his special task. Unless he believes this, he is in danger of ruining his art. The “Ode on a Grecian Urn” tells what great art means to those who create it, while they create it, and, so long as this doctrine is not applied beyond its proper confines, it is not only clear but true.

Truth is discovered by the imagination which makes man aware of the nature of things. Beauty can’t be found in our world because it only exists in the world of truth. Imagination takes man to the world of truth which is the world of beauty. A worship of beauty was both the motivation and the message of Keats’ poetry. His first ambitious work “Endymion” begins with “A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” and his Ode ends with ” Beauty is truth, truth beauty.”

William Wordsworth’s Ode on Intimations of Immortality

English: Google books. Poem's title page from ...

English: Google books. Poem’s title page from volume two, cropped and joined onto one image by User:Ottava Rima. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Wordsworth arranged his poems for publication, he placed the Ode entitled “Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” at the end, as if he regarded it as the crown of his creative life.

The three parts of the Ode deal with a crisis, an explanation, and a consolation, and in all three parts Wordsworth speaks of what is most important and most original in his poetry. The Ode’s unusual form is matched by its unusual language. The stately metrical form is matched by a stately use of words. Wordsworth seems to have decided that his subjects was so important that it must be treated in what was for him an unusual manner, and for it he fashioned his own style. Because the Ode lies outside Wordsworth’s usual range, it doesn’t perhaps realize its ambitious aims. He, who had known moments of visionary splendor, found that he knew them no more, and that is a loss which no poet can take lightly, or however comforting his consolations may be, accept in a calm, philosophic spirit. But Wordsworth was so determined not to surrender to circumstances that he made his Ode more confidant than was perhaps warranted by the mood which first set him to work. Continue Reading: Romantic Era: A Comparative Study on Wordsworth’s Ode on Intimations of Immortality & Coleridge’s Dejection

Andrew Marvell’s Poetry

Andrew Marvell, English poet.

Andrew Marvell, English poet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The larger number of Marvell’s modern admirers, I believe, have come to his poems with the assumption that the relatively short, supposedly ‘private’ poem, uncommitted to cause or action, is the most desirable or highest kind of poetry. But a number of Marvell’s poems, may shock us with their kind of ‘privacy’. But if these poems are in one way more ‘private’ than anything we can easily imagine today, they also use the rhetorical devices of an age supremely conscious of the powers and problems of the social, and particularly the persuasive, uses of language. Recently the conventional opinion has been clear about the contrast; Marvell’s good poems were the ‘private’ ones, Marvell could even serve as the prime exemplary proof for the ‘cultural break’ the ‘dissociation of sensibility ‘ which set in at 1660; before that date, supposedly, Marvell wrote the poems which we all admire; afterwards, he was the victim of politics, satire and an age, when thought and ‘feelings’ were hopelessly split apart.

Marvell seems to have been a gentleman who for a time wrote a kind of poetry that we have come to admire greatly. Although he was, with Ben Johnson and John Milton, one of the most ‘literary’ poets of the century, unlike them he conceived of himself neither as a professional nor as a dedicated poet. When the inspiration or the occasion  for a particular kind of verse was past, his choice seems to have been either to quit writing verse altogether or to turn to a new kind of poetry.Smoothness and polish might easily be preferred to roughness and ‘strength’. We can tell that Marvell’s practice differed from the normal responses of his age chiefly in agility and elegance.

John Donne, one of the most famous Metaphysica...

John Donne, one of the most famous Metaphysical Poets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The attempts to place Marvell in a specific ‘school’ of poetry have also occasionally misled or perplexed. A student who has learned that Marvell belongs to the ‘School of John Donne’ may be disconcerted when he discovers Marvell’s concern for euphony, his usual rejection of impatient or impassioned speakers, and his preference for simple metrical schemes and Johnsonian diction. Marvel delighted in considering the meanings of overtones of another poet’s phrases or images and in bending them to new and often surprising uses. When one comes to recognize some of the things Marvell took from Donne, Johnson, George Herbert, Crashaw, Dryden, and Milton. Marvell’s lines may come to seem strewn with words and phrases so redolent of other contexts that they should properly be printed in Italics. And this is the same poet whom T.S. Eliot called the most Latin of all seventeenth-century poets.

The poems are considered in terms of their general subjects. Many can be described as predominantly concerned with love, or religion, or politics. The most popular of Marvell’s poems today either clearly fit into one of the categories or mark the transitions from one to another.Frank Wranke has recently recently remarked that a large number of Marvell’s lines or poems are literally playful. T.S. Eliot’s memorable phrase about ‘a tough reasonableness beneath the slight lyric grace.’

The least and probably the most poorly read of Marvell’s poems today are the fully public ones which Marvell wrote for anonymous publication and with which he meant to influence public opinion. Marvell devoted his major energies to public matters-and numbers of people knew it.

Political Poetry

Marvell used and mastered more than one style. When he wrote occasional poems, he was aware of a potential public audience and of immediate political possibilities. And he seems to have realized that political poems, like other poems, are less immediately effective and less ultimately interesting if the poet assumes that he is merely voicing common sentiment, formulated before his poem is written-or read.

Marvell and Milton

Marvell’s association with Milton had been long: he had admired and used Milton’s early verse soon after it was published; with the publication of Paradise Lost, Marvell may have recognized that, despite his use of Johnson’s lyrics in his earlier poems, Milton was the first major poet after Donne and Johnson who was not primarily an heir of either. If Milton had a single important English ancestor, it was, of course, Spenser.Marvell clearly recognized and admired the miracle of Paradise Lost, but except in a few lines, he did not imitate it. Perhaps he recognized that Milton’s combination of blank verse and high style, divorced from greatness of subject and greatness of spirit, was likely to result merely in windiness or bombast. And Marvell, ostentatiously staying with the couplets that had served him so well.

Kubla Khan a Controversial Poem.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kubla Khan
By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately Pleasure-Dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers was girdled ’round,
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But, oh! That deep, romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill, athwart a cedarn cover:
A savage place! As holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath the waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her Demon Lover!
And from this chasm with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this Earth in fast, thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced,
Amid whose swift, half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail;
And ‘midst these dancing rocks at once and ever,
It flung up momently the sacred river!
Five miles meandering with ever a mazy motion,
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean.
And ‘mid this tumult, Kublai heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the Dome of Pleasure
Floated midway on the waves,
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device:
A sunny Pleasure-Dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such deep delight ‘twould win me
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome within the air!
That sunny dome, those caves of ice,
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry: “Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle ’round him thrice,
And close your eyes in holy dread:
For he on honeydew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise!”

English: Draft of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's po...

English: Draft of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kubla Khan is a poem written by Coleridge. It is a controversial poem. However, the shortcut is found in the Biographia Literaria in which the critic Coleridge reestablished a concept of poetry. In it, he made emphasis on “asemblance of truth” that is a resemblance of reality. Therefore, he is supposed, as he mentioned in his Biographia Literaria, to make a resemblance of truth which provides or procures the shadows of imagination, the willing suspension of disbelief for the moment of reading the poem which constitutes the poetic faith. Therefore, in the poem, we are supposed to find objects or subjects which look like reality; however, taking in consideration that the world of the poem differs from that of reality.

There is difference between Coleridge and Wordsworth in this issue, for Coleridge criticizes Wordsworth for having too much matter of factness in his poetry. Almost, reality is found in the poetry of Wordsworth, where as Coleridge believes that there must be a resemblance only in the matter of the chosen topics for poetry. Moreover, Coleridge believes that informative poetry such as that of Wordsworth, is a product of fancy. He divides the imagination into two parts: secondary and primary. The primary imagination is that power in man which perceives and recognizes objects; the secondary imagination acts on these initial perceptions to … Continue Reading: Romantic Era: A Critical analysis of Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

A Critical View on William Wordsworth’s poem “The Daffodils”

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud (Photo credit: katerha)

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed–and gazed–but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

Deutsch: William Wordsworth 1770-1850 englisch...

Deutsch: William Wordsworth 1770-1850 englischer Poet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All critics believe when they come to study this poem that Wordsworth is describing the flowers. Conventional criticism believe that while he was walking, he came to a bunch of daffodils. They believe that the poem is nothing more than a description. However, I believe that Wordsworth did not meet the daffodils when he wrote this poem, a good poet doesn’t need to see the daffodils to write about them.

In his “Preface to Lyrical Ballad” he says that a poet is not in need for external stimulus so that he could write a poem. This means that whenever we meet a poem, we shouldn’t understand that the poem is the product of a certain definite occasion. Wordsworth may have seen but also he could write the poem even if he didn’t see the daffodils. He can write with or without a stimulus. Seeing the daffodils or not is an external factor and shouldn’t be considered in evaluating the poem. This has nothing with the evaluation of the poem. The first impression about the title is that the first lines would be about the daffodils. In this case it will appear that Wordsworth is describing the daffodils. This is not the function of poetry because Wordsworth say that poetry is the “Spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected at tranquility”. So, the lines are not about the daffodils, and even if they are, the poet is not reproducing nature. The purpose of poetry is never to imitate nature, because if it is an imitation, then it wouldn’t be poetry according to Wordsworth. This is what is conveyed in his preface. “Poetry has no purpose, if there is a purpose, it should be a worthy one”. There are two contradictory cases, either poetry has a purpose or not. If poetry has a purpose, then Wordsworth would be describing, but as proved in the lines, he is not describing the flowers. The worthy purpose is not describing the daffodils, so there is another story behind the title.                                              Continue Reading: Romantic Era: A Critical View on William Wordsworth’s poem “The Daffodils”

Guest Blog: Keats and Stoicism

Interesting Literature

By Laura Inman

John Keats lived for twenty-five years, from 1795 to 1821. He is considered one of the great Romantic poets, along with Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron and Shelley. Unlike those other poets of his era, most notably in contrast with Byron and Shelly, Keats was a middle-class commoner, whose parents were inn keepers, a factor that affected his outlook and reception as a poet.  Keats and his two brothers attended a progressively-minded school and received an education that included Latin, but not Greek, a language taught at upper-class schools.


Keats’s life was marred by a succession of sad events, thus he wrote that he had hardly known any days of ‘unalloyed happiness’. His father died while Keats was a child, after which his mother fell into various forms of degradation and finally succumbed to tuberculosis. Keats nursed her through the final stages, as he would also do for his…

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Edmund Spencer Sonnet 75

Books-Womersley_1Sonnet 75 – Edmund Spenser

One day I wrote her name upon the strand,

But came the waves and washed it away:

Again I wrote it with a second hand,

But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.

Vain man, said she, that doest in vain assay

A mortal thing so to immortalize,

For I myself shall like to this decay,

And eek my name be wiped out likewise.

Not so (quoth I), let baser things devise

To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:

My verse your virtues rare shall eternize,

And in the heavens write your glorious name.

Where whenas Death shall all the world subdue,

Out love shall live, and later life renew.


eGtzdWdyMTI=_o_edmund-spenser---one-day-i-wrote-her-name-upon-the-STANZA 1: The first quatrain describes the poet writing his lover’s name on the sand. Yet, the very next moment, the waves swallow them up and the letters vanish away. In the verse “Again I wrote it with a second hand”(line 4), we can see how the poet strives once more to leave his writing upon the beach, only to see it quickly disappear. We can understand the poet’s endless, but futile effort to immortalize something that is mortal. At the same time the writing of the lady’s name, which is the central image of the poem, is transferred from earth to heaven. Here we learn that time is the destroyer of all things but even so, the poet perseveres with determination to engrave his love on the walls of time itself.
STANZA 2: In this quatrain, the poem states that the poet’s lover did not have the confidence in his efforts of trying to immortalize his love towards her. She argued it is a mere waste of time and effort as love is a mortal thing as the phrase “A mortal thing so to immortalize”. She will be “washed away” just like her name was washed away by the tide. Continue Reading: Renaissance Era: Sonnet 75 – Edmund Spenser