Keats’ Conflict Between the World of Imagination and the World of Reality
John Keats, an escapist, being torn with the sufferings of practical life, escapes form the real world to the realm of imagination. But there is a striking contrast between the world of reality, in which the poet actually lives in, and the world of imagination where he desires to be. Now we are going to discuss the conflict between these two worlds as we find in his poems especially “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode to Nightingale” and “Ode to Melancholy.”
In the real world, happiness, beauty, love and youth are transitory while in imaginative world everything is beautiful and permanent. “Ode to Nightingale” shows a clear conflict between the happiness and the immortality of the kind and the misery and the mortality of human life. The poem starts with a description of the effect of the song of a nightingale on the body and the soul of the poet. As the poet says:
“My heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains.
My sense as though of hemlock I had drunk”
The song of the Nightingale, to the poet, is a symbol of everlasting joy. The world of Nightingale is the ideal one to him. The weariness, the fever, and the fret of the reality make him unhappy. He wants to fade away to dissolve from the real world where as says the poet:
“…youth grows pale, and specter-thin, and dies,
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow”
So in order to be free from the belter and painful reality of the life the poet wants to escape to the dream forest with nightingale. As he says;
“Away! Away! For I will fly to thee”
In his imaginative forest, the poet finds all the sensual enjoyment of his life which he desires to have in an ideal world. This extremity of joy also reminds him of death. As we see in the poem:
” Now more then ever seems it rich to die.
In such an ecstasy.”
The poet now contrasts the mortality of human beings with the immortality of the nightingale. The nightingales song, that the poet hears to-day was heard in the ancient time by emperors and clowns. It was also heard in the fairyland where-
“…magic casements, opening on the foam
of perilous seas, in fairy land forlorn.”
The very world ‘forlorn’ like a bell brings him back form the fency world to the real world. It is, to the poet, like a dream. As he says;
“Was it a vision, or a walking dream?
Fled is that music-do I wake or sleep.”
So in the poem we find a dynamic contrast between an imaginary world and real world full of sorrows.
Like an in ‘ode to the Nightingale, in the poem “ode on a Grecian Urn” also weir find a contrast between the permanence of purity, beauty and joy carved on the Urn and the temporaries of the joy of read world. As the poet says;
Thou still untarnished bride of quietness!
Thou foster child of silence and slow lime.”
In the imaginative world of the art the bride will be untouched forever but in real world it is quite impossible.
Keats also contrasts the permanence of art with transience of actual life. As says the poet,
“she cannot fade,….for ever with thou love, and she be fair.”
In real life beauty and love have a short duration. Here the beloved grows old with the passing of years and loses her beauty. But the girl depicted on the Urn, which is a work of art, will never grow old and remain young forever.
“Ode to Melancholy” is another poem dealing with the strange dilemma of human life. The poet says that melancholy lives in beauty and happiness. When we enjoy them we think they will end soon. The duration of beauty makes us unhappy.
Melancholy, according to the poet –
“Dwells with beauty- beauty that must die.”
To the poet, melancholy dwells with the goddess of delight in the same temple. As says the poet;
“…in the very temple of delight veiled Melancholy…”
It shows the inter-relationship of pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow transience and permanence.
Last of all we can say that, the world of imagination can shelter us for a short while, but can not give us solution of better reality. So every one has to face the contrast between these worlds and at last come back to the real world.
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