Keats and the Dream World

Discussion on the works of John Keats.

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Keats and the Dream World

Postby elord » Sat Jan 01, 2011 6:29 pm

Hello,

I'm writing a paper on John Keats, and in it I'm discussing his use of the dream world in some of his poems. However, I'm having trouble of finding an example of one of his poems that involves the narrator trying to escape from the dream world that they are in. I already have one example: La Belle Dame sans Merci, where the knight at arms just wants his old life back before he had the dream with the princes and kings. Can any of you help me with find other examples?
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Re: Keats and the Dream World

Postby Ennis » Sun Jan 02, 2011 7:29 pm

Welcome, elord!

How exactly do you define the phrase "dream world"? Are you referring to the dream world one experiences when asleep or dream as in a trance or dream as in a wish? If you are examining Keats's poetry in relation to the last two (dream = trance or wish), almost everything Keats wrote could be used! Anyway, here are some suggestions that may be helpful:
Read The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream and "A Dream (After Reading Dante's Episode of Paolo and Francesca"). In the latter poem, Keats actually mentions in a letter (to Fanny Brawne? Jeez, I can't remember and I don't have access to my volume(s) of Keats's letters to confirm the recipient), that that particular sonnet came to him in a dream he had the night he had reread that section of Dante's Inferno. There is also a very early poem titled "Can Death Be Sleep, When Life Is but a Dream?" The long Endymion has dream sequences in it, as well. You know, many of Keats's poems make use of a "dream" state, although the condition is more trance-like than dreaming that is associated with sleep; "Ode To a Nightingale" (the loveliest thing ever written -- my humble opinion, naturally) certainly makes use of the trance-like state: "Was it a vision, or a waking dream?/Fled is that music -- Do I wake or sleep?" I'm sure my fellow Keatsians who are more knowledgeable than I am about "what Keats really means" will be more helpful to you than I have been.
"But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, 'twill not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasures." JK to FB 08.07.1819
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Re: Keats and the Dream World

Postby Cybele » Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:12 am

Ennis wrote:Welcome, elord!

How exactly do you define the phrase "dream world"? Are you referring to the dream world one experiences when asleep or dream as in a trance or dream as in a wish? If you are examining Keats's poetry in relation to the last two (dream = trance or wish), almost everything Keats wrote could be used! Anyway, here are some suggestions that may be helpful:
Read The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream and "A Dream (After Reading Dante's Episode of Paolo and Francesca"). In the latter poem, Keats actually mentions in a letter (to Fanny Brawne? Jeez, I can't remember and I don't have access to my volume(s) of Keats's letters to confirm the recipient), that that particular sonnet came to him in a dream he had the night he had reread that section of Dante's Inferno. There is also a very early poem titled "Can Death Be Sleep, When Life Is but a Dream?" The long Endymion has dream sequences in it, as well. You know, many of Keats's poems make use of a "dream" state, although the condition is more trance-like than dreaming that is associated with sleep; "Ode To a Nightingale" (the loveliest thing ever written -- my humble opinion, naturally) certainly makes use of the trance-like state: "Was it a vision, or a waking dream?/Fled is that music -- Do I wake or sleep?" I'm sure my fellow Keatsians who are more knowledgeable than I am about "what Keats really means" will be more helpful to you than I have been.


Yay, Ennis --
I absolutely agree with your suggestions.
Hyperion is a "dream," but I read it as more of a vision -- almost a shamanic journey.

And that "Fled is that music, do I wake or sleep?"
I kind of view this line as a continuation of the journey taken along with the nightingale. Again, almost shamanic, with the poet entering into the soul/consciousness of the nightingale.

(A digression: Helen Vendler did an excellent comparison between Wallace Stevens's "Sunday Morning" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunday_Morning_%28poem%29
and "Nightingale." -- The poem ends with the excellent line, "Downward toward darkness on extended wing."

(And yeah -- while "To Autumn" is my personal favorite, I think a lot of folks could make a very good case for "Nightingale" being a perfect poem.)
"The philosopher proves that the philosopher exists. The poet merely enjoys existence."
Wallace Stevens
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Re: Keats and the Dream World

Postby Ennis » Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:46 pm

Cybele wrote:
Ennis wrote:Welcome, elord!

How exactly do you define the phrase "dream world"? Are you referring to the dream world one experiences when asleep or dream as in a trance or dream as in a wish? If you are examining Keats's poetry in relation to the last two (dream = trance or wish), almost everything Keats wrote could be used! Anyway, here are some suggestions that may be helpful:
Read The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream and "A Dream (After Reading Dante's Episode of Paolo and Francesca"). In the latter poem, Keats actually mentions in a letter (to Fanny Brawne? Jeez, I can't remember and I don't have access to my volume(s) of Keats's letters to confirm the recipient), that that particular sonnet came to him in a dream he had the night he had reread that section of Dante's Inferno. There is also a very early poem titled "Can Death Be Sleep, When Life Is but a Dream?" The long Endymion has dream sequences in it, as well. You know, many of Keats's poems make use of a "dream" state, although the condition is more trance-like than dreaming that is associated with sleep; "Ode To a Nightingale" (the loveliest thing ever written -- my humble opinion, naturally) certainly makes use of the trance-like state: "Was it a vision, or a waking dream?/Fled is that music -- Do I wake or sleep?" I'm sure my fellow Keatsians who are more knowledgeable than I am about "what Keats really means" will be more helpful to you than I have been.


Yay, Ennis --
I absolutely agree with your suggestions.
Hyperion is a "dream," but I read it as more of a vision -- almost a shamanic journey.

And that "Fled is that music, do I wake or sleep?"
I kind of view this line as a continuation of the journey taken along with the nightingale. Again, almost shamanic, with the poet entering into the soul/consciousness of the nightingale.

(A digression: Helen Vendler did an excellent comparison between Wallace Stevens's "Sunday Morning" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunday_Morning_%28poem%29
and "Nightingale." -- The poem ends with the excellent line, "Downward toward darkness on extended wing."

(And yeah -- while "To Autumn" is my personal favorite, I think a lot of folks could make a very good case for "Nightingale" being a perfect poem.)



Cybele:

"To Autumn" -- definitely stylistically perfect, but everytime I read or hear "Ode To a Nightingale" I get goosebumps -- literally! Actually, I feel that way when I experience most anything written by Keats. I attribute that feeling to several considerations; 2 being the sheer creative genius and the youth of the poet; everything was written no later than the age of 23!! "When Morning from her orient chamber came,/And her first footsteps touch'd a verdant hill; . . . " -- these opening verses from "Imitation of Spenser" composed when Keats was 18-19 years old. That just blows my mind!!
I agree with you about "Hyperion: A Dream".
"But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, 'twill not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasures." JK to FB 08.07.1819
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Re: Keats and the Dream World

Postby Cybele » Wed Jan 05, 2011 6:33 pm

Goosebumps? As my dad used to say, "Ja! You betcha!"

The concepts, the images, the meter, the rhythm of the words (as opposed to the meter), & that wonderful thing Keats did with vowels -- all these add up to something that knocks the wind out of me.

However, once I realized how very personal the poem was, I felt a bit like I was invading his privacy.
(The third stanza, especially:
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
)

He kept much of his personal life to himself, and as George pointed out, it was only Tom who completely understood him.

And :D part of the reason I love "To Autumn" so much is that I love autumn.
"The philosopher proves that the philosopher exists. The poet merely enjoys existence."
Wallace Stevens
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Re: Keats and the Dream World

Postby Raphael » Sun Jan 09, 2011 12:29 am

I couldn't add any more to your excellent replies to elord! Only that the letter re the dream is to George.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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