John Keats as an Escapist
Firstly, all the poets of Keats’s time were influenced by the ideas and ideals of the French Revolution. The ideas of the French Revolution had awakened the youthful nature of both Wordsworth and Coleridge; they had moved the wrath of Scott; they had worked like Yeats on Byron and brought forth new matter for Shelly. There was only one poet, Keats, of that age whom they could not affect on any way whatsoever.
Secondly, Keats longed to escape from the realities of life in a mood that seized him when he was contrasting the lot of man with that of the nightingale. Sorrows and sufferings were expected in life and he had fully realized that escape from the realities of life was neither possible nor desirable. Keats’s lifelong creed was: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” He wanted to plunge into. ”the realm of Flora and Pan …. Sleep And Poetry. Keats was so preoccupied with beauty that he turned a deaf ear to the actualities of life around him.
Pure poet: Keats always tried to attain peacefulness of mood in the midst of all the sufferings which he was undergoing in his own life and which he saw all around him in life. For Keats the world of beauty was an escape from the boring and painful effects of life. Keats was not a Revolutionary idealist like Shelley, nor had the Shelley’s reforming zeal. Keats was a pure poet. He had aesthetic taste in the masterpieces of the past.
The artist’s vision of beauty: Every great poet must follow the bent of his genius: —he has his own vision of life, and he expressed it in his own way. Wordsworth has a spiritual vision and he expresses it in simple style; Shelley has an idealistic vision and he expresses it in musical verse; Keats had the artist’s vision of beauty, and he expresses it in picturesque style.
‘Beauty is Truth and Truth Beauty’, that is well known on the earth, ad all ye need to know.
A process of gradual development: The poetry of Keats shows a process of gradual development. His earlier experiments in verse are products of youthful imagination, immature and overcharged with imagery. The youthful poet has abnormal sensibility, but lacks experience of life.
Thus he longed to escape from the realities of life. But it was a passing mood that seized him when he was contrasting the lot of man with that of nightingale.
Sorrows and sufferings: Sorrows and sufferings were inevitable in life and he fully realized that escape from the realities of life was neither possible nor desirable. Keats was trying to attain peacefulness of mood in the midst of all the sufferings which he was undergoing in his own life and which he saw all around him in life. This mood of serenity is expressed in the Ode to Autumn.
The fundamental truths of life: Keats remained untouched by the ideas of the Revolution which filled the atmosphere of Europe at the time: at least from his poetry we do not find any indication of his interest in the Revolution. Though the contemporary facts of history have not left any impression on his poetry, he deeply realized and expressed in his poetry the fundamental truths of life. Keats was a pure poet, would not allow any extraneous things like politics or morality to disturb the pure waters of poetry. And poetry is the expression of the poet’s own experience of life
In the Ode to Melancholy, he points out how sadness inevitably accompanies joy and beauty. The rose is beautiful indeed but we cannot think the importance of the beauty without its thorn. It is therefore impossible to escape from inevitable pain in life.
Melancholy arises from humanity of joy, and joy is transient by its nature. Therefore, Keats accepts life as a whole—with its joy and beauty as well as its pain and despair. The Ode on Grecian Urn is not a dream of unutterable beauty nor is the urn itself the song of an impossible bliss beyond mortality. It has a precious message to mankind, not as a thing of beauty which gives exquisite delight to the senses, but as a symbol and prophecy of a comprehension of human life to which mankind can attain. Keats was not an escapist from life, as he is sometimes supposed to be.
Edited by: Mahbub Murad. Dhaka, Bangladesh. Cell: +8801919879309, +8801761519111. Email: Mahbub_murad@yahoo.com