Course: English Romantics
The Benefits of Pain and Suffering Explored By John Keats
Johnathan Keats was not accustomed to an easy life as he went through an immense amount of suffering having lost his father, mother and brother before the age of twenty-four. As most would wonder, how does one who has gone through so much pain and suffering make sense of it all? In response to this question, Keats in his poetry emphasized making positives out of unfortunate circumstances and in poems such as Ode to Melancholy and Fall to Hyperion he establishes the belief that pain could be beneficial to life and something worth embracing. He states this perspective himself in a letter he wrote to George and Georgina Keats in May 1819 stating “Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul? A place where the heart must feel and suffer in a thousand diverse ways...” (Melani). As a poet Keats saw it as part of his goal to make sense of this universal feeling and normalize the aspect of human suffering and in the two poems mentioned above we can understand his unique view on this theme. In Ode to Melancholy the subject matter is light as Keats tells us that we must accept both qualities of life pain and pleasure suggesting that we not shy away from our inner troubles. However, in Fall of Hyperion the tone is much more mature and serious as the work strongly suggests that one can only be a great poet by emphasizing with human anguish and Keats criticizes poets who refuse to talk about the dark realities of life.
Ode to Melancholy
In Ode to Melancholy Keats suggests to his readers that they should accept feelings of melancholy and sadness instead of fighting them. He believes that when people are suffering they naturally want to make themselves numb to these negative emotions, but instead they should become more aware of them. To Keats a major way that people try to deflect these troubling feelings are through drug use and in the first half of the poem he argues against this reaction. The first advice he gives is telling his listeners to “not go to Lethe” (“Ode to Melancholy”,1) which in Greek mythology is the river of forgetfulness. In relation to this alcohol addiction has previously been metaphorically compared to the river as in Greek myth plunging into Lethe makes one forgetful, akin to binge drinking which has the same effect (Melani). Keats extends his argument by saying one should experience pain and emotion rather that commit suicide by referring to Wolf's Bane a drug that in small doses relieved pain and in larger does lead to death. In line 2, Keats warns his reader not to drink the potion and this can be interpreted in two ways. The first is him telling us not to inflict suicide by overdose and secondly to not take any medicine at all to relieve feelings of pain. In the poem the references to drug use continue as he tells us not to engage in the “ruby grape of Prosperine” or also “rosary of yew-berries” suggesting that alcohol use should be forbidden during times of melancholy (3-5). The reasons for the criticism of the things mentioned above is explained when Keats states that these substances will “drowisly and drown the wakeful anguish of the soul”(9-10).
While the first half of the poem focuses on accepting the hardships of life, the second half deals with Keats normalizing the stigma of sadness emphasizing that it is a universal feeling. He express this best in a line where he explains that depression can happen to anyone and that it can “fall sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud” (12). Through this beautiful metaphor Keats implies depression is like bad weather, it can happen naturally at anytime and is out of our control. Relating back to the beauty of nature that the setting takes place in Keats suggests that being sad is a...
Citations: 1.Melani, Caryl. "Excerpts from Keats 's Letters." New York University. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
2.Keats, John. John Keats: The Complete Poems. London: Penguin Classics, 1977. Print.
3.Schmidt, Hendrik. “Aspects of Classicm In John Keats ' Poetry From Endymion To The Fall of Hyperion
Please join StudyMode to read the full document