“Keats yearned to transcend the human condition but could only find a temporary respite from mortality.” Discuss.
Keats, through his poetry, has in effect risen above the mortality which was so prominent in his psyche both temporarily and permanently. Much of Keats’s poetry can be seen as an attempt to explore Keats’ acute awareness and musings on the transience of human life. Coloured by his experiences of life and death, and ironically captured in his own sickness and early demise, there is evidence in his poetry which displays moments of visionary understanding of imminent mortality; albeit interspersed within the ambiguous poetry of a man struggling to come to terms with one of life’s most complex mysteries.
Keats life experience was of upmost importance in forming this awareness. Contacts with death such as the death of his brother Tom at a young age, as with other members of his family, had a profound impact on the poet. ‘To Autumn’ displays this heightened sense of time and its passing. The vivid description of the transition between the seasons gives the reader an almost snapshot like vision of a moment at the end of autumn with “all fruit with ripeness to the core;” (I. 6) However we are subtly reminded that this atmosphere of “fruitfulness” and “warm days” may soon be destroyed by the “winnowing wind” of the imminent winter. By the final stanza of the poem, we are given the harrowing reminder of the ready to be slaughtered “full grown lambs” (III. 30) and the “gathering swallows” which signify that the new season is pending. At these times it appeared he found a temporary respite through exploring his tortured nature through his poetry. Ward describes poems he wrote in the “dark months” where he contemplated the subject of death as: “the only release; poetry itself was a kind of communication with the immortal dead, or of the dead with one another, and the and the poet a birdlike figure who escapes who escapes the bonds of the earth to join them.”...
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