Ode to Psyche

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John Keats led a short, tormented life marked by great despair, obsessive and unconsummated love, and apparent poetic failure. Nonetheless and perhaps on account of this, he has since become possibly the most memorable and resounding poet of the Romantic period. The Romantic poets felt there was a harmony between the human mind and the outside world based on an understanding of a plane of one life, running through nature and humanity. Keats uses the winged Psyche as a symbol to describe his longing to identify the soul through the use of mythology and sensual imagery. “Ode to Psyche” is important as a stepping-stone piece, as the poem that squared away all his conflicting emotions and rose victoriously out of disillusionment and desperation to make sense of his pain. It tied up the loose ends of a very dark stage of his life, an amazing feat of finding peace among paradox, and cleared the slate for the rebirth of inspiration, with a vengeance. The first way that Keats describes his longing to identify the soul is through mythology. Keats introduces his reader to the goddess Psyche in the opening lines of the ode, “O Goddess! hear these tuneless numbers, wrung / By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear,” (Keats 847). In a footnote, Keats reveals that Psyche was a mortal who was wedded to Cupid and translated to heaven as an immortal. In Kris Steyaert’s article, “Poetry as Enforcement: Conquering the Muse in Keats’s ‘Ode to Psyche’,” he makes the statement that “the Cupid-Psyche myth may have appealed to Keats because it occasioned a candid gesture of self-definition and a search for a well-developed identity” (6). I agree with Steyeart’s theory to the extent that I believe Keats uses the myth of Psyche to convey his own search for identity. In the Cupid-Psyche myth, Psyche endures many tribulations in order to be with her immortal lover. After all of this, Psyche is not even recognized as a goddess until after the time of Apuleius the Platonist, and consequently...
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