Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ode to a Nightingale--Imagine That

In the biography of Keats online, the author states, “Often in Keats's poems the poet figure identifies with the beautiful, whether this is a nightingale or a Grecian urn, and participates in that beauty. This ability to lose oneself in the other, the ability of the 'camelion poet', defines his kind of poetry in opposition to that demonstrated by Wordsworth, in which the self is imposed on the other.” I found this tension between Keats and Wordsworth very interesting, especially in relation to our discussion of DeQuincey’s work on Tuesday and Peter’s post for this week. Keats definitely loses himself in “Ode to a Nightingale”—at the end of the poem he states, “Forlorn! the very word is like a bell / To toll me back from thee to my sole self!” He needs to be recalled to himself and leave the dreamy world he has created around the nightingale. This departure from reality to “participate in beauty” is reminiscent of DeQuincey’s dreams and fantastic imaginings in his work. Just as DeQuincey does not know whether he is awake or asleep while dreaming, Keats too asks, “Was it a vision, or a waking dream? … Do I wake or sleep?” Again this shows the disjunction between body and mind, which Peter talks about in his post. Although Keats does not use opium to attain this disparity, he allows his mind to wander far from his physical body. His intellect has soared and left his body behind—we would generally call this imagination. Our minds are capable of things our bodies are not. We can imagine flying, we can imagine being a fish, we can imagine almost anything, yet it does not mean that it is physically or bodily possible. In the end, we are always restrained, and, interestingly, the body is necessary to record the intellect’s lofty musings and imaginations. In the end neither one escapes the other. Overall, however, I’m still thinking about this and have not drawn any final conclusions yet.

1 comment:

  1. After discussing this in class, I think it is interesting to consider imagination and the transcendence of physical limitations. Keats ultimately hopes that his ideas, or imagination, will survive the death of his body. As class concluded on Thursday, Professor Porter briefly mentioned that Keats hoped his humanity would be reason his work would be immortalized; I think this is quite poignant with relation to imagination, which other creatures lack.