The imagination is a key theme in many of Keats’ works. Keats was a voracious believer in transcendence, which his poetry suggests he thought could be acheived through the imagination and the world it creates.
Keats famously wrote, “The Imagination may be compared to Adam’s dream—he awoke and found it truth.” Here he is theorising that imagination can connect a dreamer to the ideal world that existed before the fall of man, and transfer what is created within the imaginary world to reality. This suggests the immense power of the imagination, and also the happiness it can bring. This idea is reinforced in his works. In Lamia, the imagination is portrayed as powerful through the use of phrases such as “there was a noise of wings” and “faery-roof”. This is suggestive that the imaginary world of the ‘Faeries’ is the force behind the creation of the Fairy Hall, thus presenting to us the vast power of the imagination.
As well as the highlights of the imagination, the downfall of reality is also reinforced throughout the poetry of Keats. A frequent idea is that reality is never as good as what is imagined. After she is awoken from her dream in ‘The Eve Of St. Agnes’, Madeline laments the appearance of the earthly Porphyro compared to the heroic lover of her dreams, exclaiming “How chang’d thou art! How pallid, chill, and drear!” This shows the disappointment that laces the world of reality. The portrayal of the imaginary world is often more desireable than reality. In ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ Keats utilises language such as ‘sweet’, ‘honey’ and ‘beautiful’ to describe the world of ‘La Belle Dame’. This greatly contrasts to the description of reality, which is created through the use of words and phrases such as ‘withered’, ‘pale’ and ‘no birds sing’ which create a desolate landcape and a cruel, cold atmosphere. This contrast creates a negative impression of reality, and suggests the imaginary world is an effective retreat. However, in La Belle Dame Sans Merci...
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