Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Keat's "Ode on Melancholy"

I thought it was very interesting that Keats would write an "ode on melancholy." Ode's are traditionally works that are celebratory or praise the object, which seemed kind of contradictory to the subject of Keat's poem. Why should we celebrate being melancholy? Keat's supports this assertion by suggesting that melancholy is an emotion that should be appreciated, and he compares this to beauty. He says that rather than contemplate suicide ("No, no! go not to Lethe, neither twist..."), he claims that one should be grateful for the experience of the emotion ("Then glut the sorrow on a morning rose, ...").
However, I found it really interesting that the beautiful objects to which Keat's compares melancholy, are objects whose beauty is not permanent. For example, he uses such objects as a rose, a rainbow, and a shore - the rose will eventually wilt, the rainbow will disappear, and the shore will be washed away. He sums this up in the opening of the last stanza - "She dwells with Beauty - Beauty that must die." ( I also found interesting that this line's structure is very similar to Byron's poem "She Walks in Beauty" in the early Romantic period).
Maybe, Keats is suggesting that we should embrace the ability to feel a range of powerful emotions, and that melancholy should be appreciated for its effect because the emotion will not last for ever.


  1. I thought it was interesting that Wordsworth described good poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" . Keats and his fellow Romantic poets prize emotion over reason. Perhaps this is why he writes odes to things like "melancholy". In celebrating them with an ode, the poet can explore the emotional nature of an experience or feeling without reasoning through it or applying logic to it. Instead, Keats uses natural images, as you mentioned, which can be symbolic of part of the human experience to convey his feelings to the reader.

  2. I agree with Virginia. Keats, along with other Romantic poets, applied a medidative mode that allowed him to explore emotions more closely and understand them deeply. This is one key component that enables him to use sensual imagery in his poems.