Keats’ presentation of time Essay
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Compare and contrast Keats’ presentation of time, transience and mortality in “Ode to Autumn” with that in “Ode on a Grecian Urn and “Ode to Nightingale” During the period of 1814- 1820 Keats was at his most successful throughout this time he wrote both of his major poems “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “Ode to a Nightingale”. Another flourishing poem of his was “Ode to Autumn” which he wrote shortly before his death.
In this essay I will be addressing many areas, clarifying Keats’ thoughts and feelings.
To do this I will compare and contrast the way in which Keats presents time, transience and mortality I will then explain how this idea is a delusion and how Keats realises this. To conclude these ideas I will find evidence for resolution to this point in “Ode to Autumn”. Keats is very conscious of mortality for the duration of both “Ode on Grecian Urn” and “Ode to a Nightingale” because Keats feels this apprehension he tries to escape by imagining immortality.
Keats writes “struggle to escape” (line 9) in “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and this reveals Keats is questioning himself, along with why he cannot escape the thought of eventually dying. Many emotions are expressed while he goes through this experience. Keats feels very envious of the nightingale and this is shown in “tis not through envy of thy happy lot” (line 5). Keats wants to escape from this depression and also the knowledge of mortality. The main idea of this escapism shows Keats trying to go back to the state of Innocence; he may feel that he wants to be able to enjoy his life with his brother again and to also not have to worry about life’s troubles.
In “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “Ode to a Nightingale” envy can be linked to escapism, as Keats feels this envy he gets led to wanting to find escapism. In “Ode on a Grecian Urn” Keats writes “Thou foster-child of silence and slow time” (line 2) this may suggest that Keats is envious of the figures on the urn and how they are still able to enjoy their child hood and also their child-like innocence.
Keats enjoys being around the figures on the Urn and also seems to associate them with beautiful people and this is shown in this quote where he describes them as “happy, happy” (line 21). Since this feeling he may envy the thought of the figures on the urn being immortal, Keats does not actually know whether these people are immortal but he thinks that is the case. This is because he may feel that mortals cannot be happy with the thought of eventually dying and as these figures appear happy they therefore must be immortal. There is similar situation in “Ode to a Nightingale” the atmosphere starts to become rather intense and Keats then quotes “away, away!” (line 31). Keats is desperate to follow the nightingale, he even considers following it and flying away with it.
Keats thought that originally he would be left with a feeling of ecstasy whereas he was left with feelings of emptiness. In “Ode to Autumn” Keats no longer feels the need to be envious of other things. He now feels that all he can do is ask questions for example “Where are they” (line 23), Keats unfortunately does not know the answers but he still seems content with asking the questions. Throughout these three poems Keats has been excessively trying to seek resolution and emotional fulfilment. Unfortunately he cannot find either in “Ode on a Grecian Urn” nor “Ode to a Nightingale” whereas he does in “Ode to Autumn”.
In “Ode to a Nightingale” Keats writes “Do I wake or sleep?” (line 82) as well as “was it a vision or a waking death?” because he is searching for these emotions all he feels is that he can do is ask questions and this is because he has no answers for why he cannot seek and successfully find emotional fulfilment. In “Ode to Autumn” he finally finds what he has been looking for, emotional fulfilment, Keats says “lives or dies”. He shows that he has found resolution whilst also realising the longer he lingers over the past the more he will miss the present time. This I called ‘carpe diem’ Keats is no longer bitter and now knows how to appreciate the future and accept his fate.
Keats’ imagery ranges among all our physical sensations: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and temptation etc…Keats repeatedly combines different senses in one image, which is, he attributes the traits of one sense to another. This imagery performs a major functions in the two poems “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “Ode to a Nightingale”; this is the combining of senses normally experienced as separate experiences. The images could be the ability to sympathise and humanize natural objects.
Many examples of this mainly appear in “Ode to a Nightingale”- for example “In some melodious plot of beechen green” (line 8/9) this combine sound “melodious” and also sight “beechen green”. In stanza 4 there is an excellent use of imagery “but here there is no light “. Keats then goes on to say “Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown” (line 39) this is useful as it the image describes light filtering through leaves moved by the wind. The effect that this has is to show that Keats is feeling that death and the thought of eventually dying is draining all the good things out of life.