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Essay on John Keats’ Sensuousness

John Keats Sensuousness

Essay on John Keats’ Sensuousness

What is “sensuousness”? Sensuousness is that quality in poetry which is derived from or affects the sense – of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. By “sensuous” poetry is meant poetry which is devoted, not to an idea or a philosophical thought, but mainly to the task of giving delight to the senses. Sensuous poetry would have an appeal our eyes by presenting beautiful and colourful world-pictures, to our ear by its mus. sounds, to our nose by arousing our sense of smell, and so on.

Keats’ sensuousness-

Poets generally make an appeal to our sense of sight alone. Most poetry is concrete and full of word-pictures. But Keats offers a feast for all our senses. He once wrote, “O for a life of sensation rather than of thoughts!” Keats had a keen sensation rather than of thoughts!” Keats had a keen sense of social responsibility which haunts him again and again, but by nature he is happiest when he is free from thought and revels in his sensations.

The concreteness of Keats’ poetry-

This keen sense of beauty, combined with his unusually awakened and delicate senses, makes Keats’ poetry concrete. Keats never remains in abstractions, but always presents concrete, tangible objects. It is impossible to read his poetry swiftly, for every line has an appeal to one of our senses or the other, and can be enjoyed fully if we allow it to sink into us slowly.

The appeal to senses-

Thus Keats’ poetry has all round appeal to all our sense. Thus he would appeal to our senses of taste and touch when he talks of “a draught of vintage” which has been cooled a long age in the deep-delved earth” and “lasting of Flora and the country green. Throughout the Ode to a Nightingale we hear the sound of the nightingale’s song we hear its “plaintive anthem”, fading past the near meadows, “over the hill streams”, up the hill side” and it is then buried deep in the next valley-glades. Again, in such lines as “O for a beaker full of the worm South” the word “warm” is almost alive. In such phrases as “embalmed darkness” or “dewy wine” or “with beaded bubbles winking at the brim” the poet “makes a composite appeal to many of our senses at once. He cannot help describing roots of relish sweet” and “honey wild and manna dew” in a poem of such desolation as La Belle Dame Sans Merci. Thus Keats’ appeal never lies to just one of our senses. As in actual life, so in Keats’ poetry, things appeal to many of our senses at once.

Sensuousness implies an appeal to the senses-eye ear sense of taste, smell, hot and cold. Keats himself said, “O, for a life of sensations rather than of thought! Many of his pictures are decorative (only for beauty). They do not carry forward the story. The story of Eve of St. Agnes could have been told in a few lines; sensuous images make it run to 42 stanzas.

Sense of eye-

Keats’ poetry is a picture gallery. He appeals to our sense of sight. There is nothing abstract, everything is with him concrete. His poems are series of pictures, like a cinema-reel.

The following lines could be converted into painting :

The carved angels ever eager eyed

Stare where upon their head the cosmic rests

With their blown back and winds put cross-wise on their breasts.

Or, that an accurate picture of the awakened dog is given

The wakeful blood bound rose and shook his hide,

Another eye-picture is

Our went the taper as she hurried in

Its little smoke in pallid moonshine died.

Sense of hearing-

The beadsman had hardly gone three steps. When music’s golden tongue

Flattered to tears this aged man and poor.

Porphyro san La Belle Dame Sans Merci, close to the ear of sleeping Madeline.

Sense of Taste-

What is beautiful feast is set on the table by Porphyro near the bed of his beloved. No one eats any of these dishes, but the lovely description is given to gratify our sense of taste :

Of candied apple, quince and plum and gourd

With jellies soother than the creamy curd;

And lucent syrups, tinct with cinnamon,

Manna and dates

This feast in words is sweeter than an actual feast.

Sense of smell-

The perfume of the roes mixes with the perfume of violet (flower)

Into her dream, he melted, as the rose

Blendethy its odour with the violet

Solution sweet.

Sense of Touch-

The poem begins with a description of bitter cold.

St. Agnes Eve – Ah! biter chill it was

The owl for all his feathers was a cold

The hair limpsed trembling through the frozen grass

The example of a feeling of warmth is provided, when Madeline removes her ornaments

Unclasps her warmed jewels, one by one.

It reveals that Keats’ was a sensuous poet.

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