Sensation or Divination?

The life of John Keats the man: his family, his friends, and his contemporaries.

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Sensation or Divination?

Postby dks » Sun Apr 09, 2006 9:28 pm

I read an article about those born on Halloween, and it mentioned something about those relatively few who do have this birthday are often born with a precognitive ability--or a 'second sight.' Usually, this ability has a close assimilation with the foretelling of death.

We all know our bard was born on 10/31--although Ward (I think) mentions that he may have been born on 10/30--anyway, certainly, "When I Have Fears" and "To Autumn," along with many quotes by Keats showcase a certain brand of intuition...I know one lit. critic (Perkins) who actually asserts that his works contains a fair amount of 'clairvoyance.'

It was an interesting piece--short, but intriguing. I wondered what anyone's thoughts were on this...did Keats exhibit a gift for second sight in his works? Or am I listening to too much Stevie Nicks? :lol:
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Postby dks » Sun Apr 09, 2006 9:33 pm

Oops, I meant "works contain" in the prior post...

Also...I didn't know what section to post this topic in, really--

If it's in the wrong one, Saturn, here's my white flag and 'so sorry' banner...
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Re: Sensation or Divination?

Postby Despondence » Sun Apr 09, 2006 11:49 pm

dks wrote: I wondered what anyone's thoughts were on this...did Keats exhibit a gift for second sight in his works? Or am I listening to too much Stevie Nicks? :lol:

He was certainly right on the money when he wrote "I think I shall be among the English Poets after my death" . . .
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Postby Malia » Mon Apr 10, 2006 12:45 am

And he was eerily close to hitting the bull's eye when he wrote "This mortal body of a thousand days" as he had just about that long to live.

But I don't think that Keats had a second sight. I think he was keenly perceptive--but so are a lot of artists.
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Postby dks » Mon Apr 10, 2006 3:19 am

What about his definition of poetry? That it should be man's "highest thoughts, as if a remembrance."

Not that he made any open, foretelling statements, per se...but he sure seems to be portending his own death in "When I Have Fears"--and those cloudy, stubble plains in "To Autumn"...they perfectly herald a natural funeral at the end--maybe his own.

If this sounds like a paper topic...it is. I'll be hashing it out tonight. Just wanted input from the only truly erudite Keats crew I know.

:wink:
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Postby Credo Buffa » Mon Apr 10, 2006 3:36 am

Malia wrote:I think he was keenly perceptive--but so are a lot of artists.

Well, you know what really is eerily bizarre. . . how often the conversation topics on this thread seem to match my own thoughts as they appear in my head around the same time! :shock:

I was actually thinking about this the other day, about how certain people seem to have a distinct feeling of how long they're going to live. Naturally, Keats came into my mind here, because he most certainly was preoccupied with the idea of his own early death. Of course, we could look at this psychologically and say that he witnessed so many premature deaths in his own family that he just naturally assumed that he would experience the same.

If we want to get a bit mystical, though, it does seem that some people, particularly those with an artistic soul, as Malia points out, are quite "aware" on another level, which might lead to a kind of vague foresight. If we consider the way artists think, though, it sort of makes a weird (applying the earliest meaning of the term) kind of sense. Artists do work on a different level; some might say that it is a more "spiritual" level. Their goal is essentially to capture an abstract idea and interpret it in concrete terms. What could be more abstract than searching oneself and somehow extracting a sense of being fated? One would probably have to already be thinking in transcendent terms (i.e. writing poetry) to come across something like that.

All that aside, though, it's almost impossible not to notice how closely the thoughts on death expressed in Keats's writing match the facts of his own life and death. Whether or not this is just coincidence or evidence of something deeper, we'll never really be able to know :wink:
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Postby Despondence » Mon Apr 10, 2006 3:58 am

dks wrote:Not that he made any open, foretelling statements, per se...but he sure seems to be portending his own death in "When I Have Fears"--and those cloudy, stubble plains in "To Autumn"...they perfectly herald a natural funeral at the end--maybe his own.

It has always seemed to me that Keats must have been keenly aware of the danger he was in, with the record of illness among those near to him, and backed up by his medical training. And he almost seemed to be planning for a life after death, as if death might very plausibly come to claim him too soon, "before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain." He sometimes urged his correspondents to save the letters that he wrote, whatever may be read into that (planning for his memoirs already?) I think Keats's premonitions of untimely death can be viewed as one of those self-fullfilling prophecies; not, perhaps, induced by mystic foresight, but by some mode of comprehension of the harsh reality he could be facing. But then, I am not a mystic, so what would I know :)
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Postby dks » Mon Apr 10, 2006 4:31 am

I agree with you both--maybe because we may never know exactly what was going on inside his mind.

But I guess it goes along with eidetic memory--many artists have that--a complete recapitulating ability with spotless accuracy, channeled through the artist's chosen medium. It wouldn't be so far afield, though, for Keats to have possessed a sixth sense of sorts--I mean, the Romantic Movement had its share of mystics. Blake had seen visions and conversed with the prophet Ezekiel since he was 8 years old. Coleridge was a bona fide prodigy--able to recall everything he read once with striking accuracy, not to mention the extraordinary ability to compose entire poems in his head, only writing them down later.

But Keats is the only poet whose work oozes an insight that borders on some incorporeal sense...a bit more than just keen insight. I really believe he precognated his own death--and I've thought many times about his medical training and the association with consumption and his bio-scientific knowledge; but no one within the medical community knew that consumption (as it was deemed then) was contagious until the latter part of the nineteenth century. Indeed, if they had...victims would have been much more tightly sequestered.

Something to think about anyway. I really think it's yet another fascinating lens to look through with regards to Keats... :?:
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Postby Brave Archer » Mon Apr 10, 2006 6:58 pm

I think we may be giving the man more credit than we should in this here topic. As Despondence said "Keats's premonitions of untimely death can be viewed as one of those self-fullfilling prophecies", people who dwell on lonliness and death often get just that. Also, i'm pretty sure that he knew the TB was going to kill him, everyone he knew who had that died young. I get the impression as well his later letters that he was just to the point where Life wasn't really worth it. The aggitation of people not giving him his due, the frustrations of Fanny.


He became more and more just broken as the letters go on. His poems and certain letters he focus'd on death and with the same stroke of a pen ask'd you to pay no attention to that fact. But, we love him for that, or at least I do.
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Postby dks » Mon Apr 10, 2006 7:21 pm

I'm trying to wield a fancy souding thesis for a paper here...you know, due tomorrow? Give me a bone...

Seriously, he very, very much wanted to be heard through his poetry--he never sounded much like someone who just wanted to chuck it all and delve headlong into a slight 'knowing' or resignation; especially when he fell in love with Fanny.

I'm focusing on "When I Have Fears" which was written in Jan. 1818--before the first hemmorhage--so the inevitability wasn't quite known to him yet when he composed this sonnet--also, it wasn't about Fanny--the "fair creature of an hour" he talks about is presumably the mystery woman at Vauxhaull, whom he saw for a mere few minutes--its just that the poem sounds very portentous and a bit ominous for someone who wasn't quite yet aware of his own terminal illness. I think it very interesting that he's gone down in the annals of great English poets as one who exudes a semblance of "clairvoyance." Perkins and Walter Jackson Bate both assert this--I mean, it broaches a certain something.
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Postby Malia » Mon Apr 10, 2006 9:26 pm

dks wrote:I'm trying to wield a fancy souding thesis for a paper here...you know, due tomorrow? Give me a bone....


:lol: !! I know where you're coming from, there. It can be really hard to come up with a new and exciting idea to write about--especially when it seems that almost everything that can be written about Keats has already been written.

I think your idea is interesting--but I wonder if you have enough material to "prove your case" in a thesis. I think it would be hard to use Keats's life and work to prove he was clairvoyant. A person can say anything about Keats--I could say he had an affair with Isabella Jones or that he believed when he was nursing Tom that he knew he'd die of TB within two years--but can I prove it with facts? Much of what I can say on those points is highly subjective.

One interesting topic that I've come across that has a lot of "meat" to it--is Keats's exploration (and the evolution of) the relationship between love and death. In earlier works, love and death are considered opposites (as seen in Eve of St. Agnes, for example). But later--after Tom's death--love and death start to coalesce--they become part of the same "entity" so to speak. The idea of this merging of love and death is very Romantic in nature and it invades not only Keats's poetry, but his life and philosophy as well. There is a lot to work with there.

Still, I think your topic idea is interesting--and it certainly has brought life to the Keats message board :)
You said that there were some articles/critics who make the clairvoyant connection in Keats. . .can you post a link to these articles? I'd love to read up on it, myself :)
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Postby dks » Mon Apr 10, 2006 9:41 pm

Yes, thanks for your insight, Malia. You know how it is with those pesky 'required' writing endeavors!

I presented a master's paper for my Literary London class (in London, in the dead of winter--chilly for a gal used to 100 degrees in the shade beginning in April!) The topic was, in fact, Keats's use of "light and shade" through "love and death."

This paper is for my Romantics class--a GREAT time had by all in there every Tues and Thurs! Many of us from that class routinely "study" at the local, adjacent pub over sweet, apricot Reisling and peppery, warm Merlots...I LOVE that class!!! :lol:

I think I'll wrench it out with where I'm going on this--maybe veer off into a more literary theory based argument--something like the noteworthiness of Keats's first departure from the Petrarchan sonnet tradition to the Shakespearean sonnet in "When I have Fears"--which would seemingly mark a fresh beginning of sorts, but interesting how the poem is about his own untimely death. What do you think?
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Postby dks » Mon Apr 10, 2006 9:45 pm

Oh, almost forgot...Walter Jackson Bate edited a collection of essays on Keats called "Keats: a Collection of Critical Essays"--in his sturdy, scholarly intro, he talks about that "clairvoyance" in Keats's work...also David Perkins--in his mini-bio in the gi-normic volume called "English Romantic Writers, Second Ed." he talks very briefly about the "clairvoyance" inherent in Keats's poetry/letters.
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Postby Malia » Mon Apr 10, 2006 10:16 pm

dks wrote:This paper is for my Romantics class--a GREAT time had by all in there every Tues and Thurs! Many of us from that class routinely "study" at the local, adjacent pub over sweet, apricot Reisling and peppery, warm Merlots...I LOVE that class!!! :lol:


That sounds so cool--I wish I was in your class! :D


dks wrote:I think I'll wrench it out with where I'm going on this--maybe veer off into a more literary theory based argument--something like the noteworthiness of Keats's first departure from the Petrarchan sonnet tradition to the Shakespearean sonnet in "When I have Fears"--which would seemingly mark a fresh beginning of sorts, but interesting how the poem is about his own untimely death. What do you think?


That sounds like an interesting topic--very interesting! And "When I have fears" is such a dramatic, emotional poem. It's a a great one to read aloud. I think it shows a glimmer of what Keats *could* have been as a playwright. Why do you think he switched to the Shakespearian form there? Because Shakespearian sonnet would be more dramatic? (I have absolutely no idea, myself! :lol:)

Did you know that Keats tried his hand at creating his own sonnet form? (I don't think it was successful--at least Keats didn't think it worked all that well--he tried it out in a letter to George.) I think Keats was going for a form that lent itself well to the flow of the English language. He was concerned, I think, with making English sound "pure".
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Postby dks » Mon Apr 10, 2006 10:31 pm

Malia, I was looking for that in all my oodles of Keats's selected poems and letters books--I didn't know that he tried out his own sonnet form--very interesting, indeed--a "pure" form of English--something more Avonic?? Hmmmm.

I was just reading one of his letters to Fanny B. on the englishhistory.net site--one of his 1820 letters--they make me cry everytime...I have to run to the bathroom like a little girl and get the tissue--I sometimes can't take it...what must she have thought to have someone write things like that to her?? I would've have swooned and fainted. There is a part where he talks about Love being his religion and that is what he's die for... :( :cry: :( :cry:

He was, indeed, perfect. :cry:
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