Sunday, November 28, 2010

Keats' ODE TO FANCY

1. INTRODUCTION
The Pleasures of Fancy
In this poem, Keats describes the pleasures which one can enjoy by means of the exercise of one’s fancy or imagination. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful poems of Keats. It certainly possesses an outdoor, refreshing quality. The central idea that reality, however beautiful it may be, can never satisfy us fully and that true satisfaction can be found only in the pleasures of the imagination, is perfectly convincing. The poem shows the influence of Milton in its exquisite metrical harmony. There are echoes in it from Milton’s L’Allegro and II Peqseroso.

2. CRITICAL SUMMARY
The Fleeting Nature of the Pleasures of Reality
The pleasures of reality, says the poet, melt away soon, but the pleasures of the imagination are ever-fresh and everlasting. We should, therefore, give free reins to our imagination. Pleasure is never to be found at home. If we let our fancy loose, it will bring for us from abroad all the pleasures that we wish to enjoy. (Lines 1-9)
The Temporary Pleasures of Three of the Seasons
Summer, spring, and autumn, all have their beauties. But these seasons can never give us real and lasting pleasure, because of the imperfections which all the pleasures of reality suffer from, and because of the feeling of weariness or disgust to which they all ultimately lead. The flowers and fruits of these different seasons soon fade; and we soon tire of the pleasures which these seasons provide. (Lines 10-15)
Winter, the True Season of Pleasure
The true season for pleasure, says the poet, is winter. (This is, of course, a paradoxical statement because winter in England is a season of great hardship and suffering. What the poet means is that in winter one can sit down in a cosy corner of the house and give free reins to one’s fancy.) Sitting by the fireside on a wintry night, we can send our fancy on her travels, and we can enjoy all the beauties of summer, spring, and autumn. The buds and bells of May, and the heaped wealth of autumn, with all the delights of summer will be mingled together for us, and we can enjoy these as we might enjoy three excellent wines mingled in a cup. We can hear the distant harvest songs, the sweet birds welcoming the morning, and the rooks cawing and searching for stick and straws. We can see in our imagination the flowers different seasons, such as the daisy, the marigold, the lily, the primrose and the hyacinth. We can see the field-mouse and the snake emerging from their underground abode after their winter-long hibernation. We can see the nest-eggs being hatched; we can see the swarm of bees; we can hear the ripe acorns falling down to the ground. (Lines 16-66)
The Ever-fresh and Ever-lasting Pleasures of Fancy
Only the pleasures of fancy are ever-fresh and everlasting. Pleasures of reality are lost as soon as they are enjoyed. The beauty of even the loveliest woman becomes stale if we see her everyday. Her cheeks, her lips, her eyes, and her voice lose all their appeal and charm as a result of too much familiarity. But a beloved who has been created by fancy will retain her beauty and charm always. It is better to have an imaginary sweetheart than to have a real woman as one’s sweetheart. This imaginary sweetheart will have eyes as beautiful and sweet as Proserpina had before she was carried off by Pluto, the god of the underworld. This imaginary sweetheart will have a waist as beautiful as that of Hebe, the goddess of youth and the cup-bearer of the gods. (Lines 67-89)
Fancy (or Imagination), a Great Blessing for Human Beings
Indeed, the pleasures of reality are as short-lived as the bubbles formed when rain is falling. We should, therefore, remove all restraint and restrictions upon our fancy. If fancy is allowed to roam and to soar freely, it will bring a multitude of pleasures. Let the winged fancy be given unlimited freedom to wander abroad, and we shall find that it has the capacity to provide us with those exquisite pleasures which cannot be found at home. (Lines 89-94)
3. CRITICAL APPRECIATION
The Main Idea
The subject of this poem is the pleasures of the “fancy”, which here means the “imagination”. The pleasures of the imagination, says the poet, are ever-fresh and everlasting, while the pleasures of reality are short-lived. The pleasures of reality are lost as soon as they are enjoyed, but the pleasures of the imagination have the quality of permanence. The beauty of even the loveliest woman becomes stale and tiresome as a result of too much familiarity; but the beauty of an imaginary sweet-heart can never fade or decline. This poem is typical of Keats’s aesthetic temperament. It teaches us the value of the imagination in lending a permanent appeal and freshness to the pleasures of reality. One must observe the beautiful things in this world and then one must use one’s imagination to re-call those things and to create new thing, and thus to enjoy their charm:
Ever let the Fancy roam, 
                Pleasure never is at home.
Sensuous Quality
The poem has a richly sensuous appeal. We have numerous pictures of beautiful things which please our senses. The fruits of autumn, buds and bells of May, the sweet singing of the birds, the various flowers—the daisy, the marigold, the lily, the primrose—are a kind of feast which we enjoy as we go through the poem. By the exercise of our fancy, we can see at one glance all the flowers:
Thou shall, at one glance, behold
The daisy and the marigold;
White-plumed lilies, and the first
Hedge-grown primrose that hath burst;
Shaded hyacinth, alway
Sapphire queen of the mid-May;
And every leaf, and every flower
Pearled with the self same shower.
Similarly, the sweet-heart whom the imagination has to create would be an embodiment of perfect beauty and would remind us of Proserpina of ancient mythology. This imaginary sweet-heart would have a waist and a side as white as Hebe’s. We are here given a lovely picture of Hebe’s petticoat slipping down to her feet, and Jove becoming “languid” with passion on beholding her naked physical charms. Even Jove seems to swoon with passion as Porphyro in The Eve of St. Agnes does:
With a waist and with a side
White as Hebe’s, when her zone
Slipt its golden clasp, and down
Fell her kirtle to her feet,
While she held the goblet sweet,,
And Jove grew languid.
The reference is to ancient mythology in the poem which brings before us the stories of Pluto’s abduction of Proserpina, and of Jove’s lustful desire for Hebe.
Minute Observation of Nature
The poem shows not only Keats’s love of Nature, but also his close and minute observation of everything that happens in the world of Nature. We have a vivid picture of the winter and of the other seasons. The pictures of the field-mouse, the snake, the eggs being hatched in the nests of birds, the ripe acorns falling down, and the rooks searching for sticks and straws, are examples of the poet’s interest in even the small details of the life of Nature:
Or the rooks, with busy caw,           
Foraging for sticks and straw,         
……………………………….          
Thou shall see the field-mouse peep             
Meagre from its celled sleep;          
And the snake, all winter-thin       
Cast on sunny bank its skin!           
Freckled nest eggs thou shall see   
Hatching in the hawthorn-tree,     
When the hen-bird’s wing doth rest             
Quiet on her mossy nest……
These pictures fully illustrate Keats’s preference for vivid and concrete imagery.
Jubilation and Melancholy
The mood of the poem on the whole is one of jubilation and exultation, although a streak of melancholy runs through it. The feeling of melancholy is due to our realisation that the sweet pleasures of reality melt away quickly; while the feeling of jubilation is due to the fact that our imagination can more than compensate us for the transitoriness of real pleasures.
Technical Merits
The poem is remarkable also because of its sweet music and harmony. There are some’ very appropriate similes and some felicitous phrases and expressions. The shortness of the duration of the pleasures of reality is aptly compared to the melting of bubbles:
At a touch sweet Pleasure melteth,
Like to bubbles when rain pelteth.
The imaginative combination of the pleasures of winter, summer and autumn is compared to the mixing of three wines in a cup which one can enjoy drinking:
She will mix these pleasures up     
Like three fit wines in a cup,          
And thou shall quaff it:
An imaginary mistress may be as “dulcet-eyed as Ceres’ daughter”, while her waist and side may be “white as Hebe’s”. Then we have such metaphorical expressions as “the mesh of the Fancy’s silken leash”, and “Fancy’s prison string”. Among the felicitous phrases we have “Autumn’s red-lipp’d fruitage”, “Fancy, high-commission’d”, “all the heaped Autumn’s wealth”, “sweet birds antheming the morn”, “white-plumed lilies”, and “sapphire queen of the mid-May”.
A Critic’s View of this Poem
Speaking about this poem, a commentator says: “Light-hearted though it is, it suggests a first trying-over of material eventually woven into the Odes; many suggestive images and actual phrases will be recognised (‘all the heaped Autumn’s wealth’, ‘mid-May’, ‘All the buds and bells of May’), and the theme of the poem contrasts the transience of natural beauty with the vision of unfading beauty called up by the poetic imagination.”

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

nice

hina said...

thnk you sooo much

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