Keats Paper

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Postby dks » Fri Apr 21, 2006 8:10 pm

and here's up to page 9:

Could this account for his alarming earlier assertions in the sonnet? The third quatrain offers an answer to this question:

And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love!

In the final quatrain, Keats broaches the subject of love. Biographers know that Keats was not referring to Fanny Brawne in line 9, as he would not even meet her until the latter part of 1818. Instead, he was making a reference to a woman he saw at Vauxhaull while in London; he watched her from a distance for a handful of minutes, but this brief encounter would, apparently, have quite an extraordinary ripple effect on Keats’s life:
The meeting itself was nothing: for half an hour or so he watched her as she talked with friends over a table, enthralled by her every gesture…the emotion the experience kindled somehow survived and grew to a talismanic significance in Keats’s mind…the early lyric already hints at a recurrent theme of his later work: beauty as a rare and unearthly visitant, who appears and then departs as suddenly as she came, leaving a chill of premonition in the air behind her (Ward 39).

This “chill of premonition” speaks loudly in lines 9-12. Keats is declaring how he will be barred from experiencing love’s “faery power” generated by the brief meeting with the mystery Vauxhaull girl. Interestingly enough, he uses the phrase “unreflecting love” in line 12. This phrase would seem to indicate an unreciprocated or unrealized love—exactly the kind of love he would later experience more deeply with Fanny Brawne. The London encounter wielded a “power” over Keats, a power he worried he would never fully experience because of untimely death. Alongside predicting his death, and in longing for emotional fulfillment with regard to his longstanding passion for the Vauxhaull beauty, Keats was foretelling the occurrence of “unreflecting love” in his life, which would later come to painful fruition.
The sonnet’s couplet reveals the poet’s resolution (or lack thereof) to his consternation:
--Then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink (Ricks 221).

The poet offers a nebulous verdict with regard to his dilemma. This is an example of Keats’s Negative Capability philosophy. He, instead, chooses to remain in uncertainty instead of engaging in “irritable reaching after fact & reason” to help explain why he fears dying young and missing the opportunity to become famous and find love. While employing his own philosophy, Keats also concludes his portentous sonnet with an underlying statement about acceptance and tolerating inevitability. The surety of Keats’s prediction is powerful enough to warrant a gridlock in the sonnet’s couplet; he cannot say for sure when his time on earth will end, and so the poet “stand[s] alone,” and “the identity of everyone begins to press upon [him] that, [he] is in a very little time annihilated.” (Bush 280)
The foretelling theme of “When I Have Fears” is complimented by the poem’s structure. Keats had previously enjoyed the Petrarchan sonnet form; however, with this sonnet came his first departure from that tradition. He uses the Shakespearean sonnet form in “When I Have Fears,” marking new poetic territory. The structural parting noted a fresh start for Keats, who was immersing himself in poesy at the time. He would have breathtaking surroundings with which to work—Keats was getting ready to embark upon a walking tour of Scotland with his friend, Charles Brown, in the upcoming summer of 1818—while waiting for “Endymion” to go to print (Hebron 60). Seemingly, life was busy and opportunities were buzzing for the young poet. The severity of his youngest brother’s illness would not be realized for another few months; it is difficult to imagine Keats having sufficient reason to cast out such a premonition as he does in this early sonnet; however, it is relevant to his life that this new, poetic structural beginning would collide with such an ominous theme. Keats, himself would agree that the paradox is alluring and intriguing as he asserts in another early poem, “On Seeing the Elgin Marbles:”
My spirit is too weak—mortality
Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,
And each imagined pinnacle and steep
Of godlike hardship, tells me I must die
Like a sick Eagle looking at the sky (Ricks 99).
"I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of Imagination."
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Postby dks » Mon Apr 24, 2006 11:16 pm

and here's the remainder...

Keats’s extraordinary ability to combine rich pathos with unearthly foresight in his earlier poems helped pave the way for the masterful works for which he would later be most famous. Worrisome premonition and foresight morph slowly into a supernormal comfort, familiarity and acceptance of the inevitability of mortality in his later lyric poems. In “Ode to a Nightingale” he no longer fears death, he beckons it:
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Called him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy! (Ricks 347)

It is especially worth noting that there are roughly sixteen months between the composition dates of “When I Have Fears” and the great odes. Keats always felt time was running short, certainly after he suffered a hemorrhage and realized he was ill with consumption in January of 1820 (Hebron 103). It may not be an accident that he propelled himself poetically and made leaping strides in maturation as a writer in a shockingly short period of time; he may well have known from as early as 1817 that his life would be short, but that it could also have spurred greatness within poetic achievement afterwards. Keats’s genius had to work in double time in order to match those poets who had written for many more years or had been highly educated; his ‘other worldly’ sense of intuition and keen ability for premonition helped him evolve into the master poet he rapidly became. As his illness progressed, Keats became increasingly anxious to cast his message to the world:
‘If I should die,’ said I to myself, ‘I have left no immortal work behind me—nothing to make my friends proud of my memory—but I have lov’d the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had had time I would have made myself remembered (Hebron 104).

Keats’s relationship with Fanny Brawne was also gravely affected by his perceptive canniness. He became engaged to her, only to break it off when he became too ill to stay in England for the winter of 1820; his longing for “unreflecting love” would ultimately never be fully satisfied (Ward 390). He knew he was destined to live only a short time, and he continued to poetically spin these premonitions into luxurious imagery:
This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights (Ricks 459).

While Keats is the youngest of the Romantic poets, he is, by far, one of the most influential and widely read English, Romantic poets. His life in itself mirrors his work, probably more than most poets and writers. It is extraordinary that Keats turned out masterpieces of poesy in a matter of mere months, but it is fascinating to take a close look at his poetry and letters, which exude a unique brand of uncanniness and emotional portentousness that is unmatched in English poetry; he could easily be counted as the Romantic Movement’s cardinal seer. Did Keats actually predict his own early death in his famous early sonnet, “When I Have Fears?” It certainly would seem so. To be sure, Keats possessed an ethereal perceptivity and a psychic intuition which he wove seamlessly into his work; his life story and poetry are so eerily and exquisitely resonant that it certainly leaves one to wonder, “Who fished [his] murex up?” (Browning) Indeed, just “what porridge had John Keats?”
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Postby Saturn » Mon Apr 24, 2006 11:24 pm

*Rises for a standing ovation* :D
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Postby dks » Mon Apr 24, 2006 11:27 pm

Saturn wrote:*Rises for a standing ovation* :D

:oops: Come still need much fleshing out :oops:

but do you like it? I mean was it engaging at all?
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Postby Credo Buffa » Mon Apr 24, 2006 11:48 pm

Yeah, it was really different from what I expected, at least based on the impression I was getting from your thread you started on the subject of Keats and foresight. I'm not meaning that as a bad thing at all, by the way! I was just imagining something a bit more speculative, but this is very well-researched and makes a lot of interesting points regarding Keats's "musings on death and love" in a biographical context. Very well done :D
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