JOHN KEATS’S SENSOUSNESS
By the sensuous poetry is meant poetry which is devoted not to an idea or a philosophical thought, but mainly to the task of giving delight to the senses. Sensuous poetry would have an appeal to our eyes by presenting beautiful and colorful word-pictures, to our ear by its metrical music and musical sounds, to our nose by arousing our sense of smell, and so on.
All poetry proceeds originally from sense-impressions, and all poets are more or less sensuous. Impressions of the senses are in fact the starting point of the poetic process for it is what the poet sees and hears that excites his emotion and imagination, and his emotional and imaginative reaction to his sense-impressions generates poetry.
Keats said, “O for a life of sensations rather than of thoughts”. Sensuousness means appeal to our senses-eye, ear, nose, taste and smell, and sense of hot and cold. Other poets give only eye picture. They are capable of giving other pictures. Keats is a painter in words. With the help of a mere few words, he presents a solid, concrete picture.
“Her hair was long, her foot was light
And her eyes were wild”.
“I saw their starved lips in the gloom
With horrid warning gaped wide”.
The music of the nightingale produces pangs of pain in poet’s heart.
“The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In the ancient days, by emperor and clown”.
The opening lines of La Belle Dame Sans Merci describe extreme cold;
“The sedge is withered from the lake
And no birds sing”.
Calvin called the line ‘And no birds sing’, as the best line in English literature. In Ode to a Nightingale, Keats describes many wines. The idea of their taste is intoxicating:
“O for a beaker full of the warm South:
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene”.
In La Belle Dame Sans Merci the idea of taste is described
She found me roots of relish sweet
Of honey wild and manna dew”.
The poet can’t see the flowers in the darkness. There is mingled perfume of many flower:
Fast fading violets covered up in leaves
And mid May’s eldest child,
The musk-rose, full of dewy, wine
The murmurous haunts of flies on summer eves.
In the Ode to Autumn, the season of autumn is described in sensuous terms in which all the senses are called forth.
Season of musts and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Keats is pre-eminently a poet of sensations, whose very thought is clothed in sensuous images. Not only were the sense perceptions of Keats quick and alert, but had the rare gift of communicating these perceptions by concrete and sensuous imagery. How vivid and enchanting is the description of wine-bubbles in the line:
With beaded bubbles winkling at the bottom.
Keats was a worshipper of beauty and pursued beauty everywhere, and it was his senses that first revealed to him the beauty of things. The beauty of the universe---from the stars of the sky to the flowers of the woods---first stuck his senses. He could make poetry only out of what he felt upon his pulses. Thus, it was his sense impression that kindled his imagination which made him realize the great principle that “Beauty is Truth and Truth is Beauty”.
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