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How does "Ode to Psyche" address the idea of life being the 'vale of soulmaking'?

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saphilablue101 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 6, 2012 at 10:02 AM via web

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How does "Ode to Psyche" address the idea of life being the 'vale of soulmaking'?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 6, 2012 at 2:04 PM (Answer #1)

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The inspiration for this poem was the way in which Keats looked at society in his day and age, and found it wanting. Keats believed that, because of Enlightenment thought and a focus on Reason, his world was gradually being stripped of important aspects such as ritual and myth, and that "the air, the water, and the fire" were gradually having their holiness taken away from them. Although Christianity continued, its various ceremonies did not compare in terms of the power that they have to the more ancient forms of worship. In this poem, therefore, Keats tries to forge a link to more classical forms of devotion and holiness through the power of the imagination.

For life to be once again the "vale of soulmaking," such a form of worship is to be found, and in the poem, the speaker declares that he will worship Psyche in order to regain that sense of mystery and worship that has been lost in modern society. Note how he declares this intention:

So let me be thy choir, and make a moan

Upon the midnight hours;

Thy voice, thy lute, thy pipe, thy incense sweet

From swinged censer teeming:

Thy shrine, thy grove, thy oracle, thy heat

Of pale-mouth'd prophet dreaing.

Life with a focus on its mysteries and profundity ensures an outlook that makes it "the vale of soulmaking" as it emphasises the development of spiritual aspects of humans. Keats in this poem struggles to regain a perspective that will enable his soul to be developed in the midst of a historical perspect that he found to be soul-less and to take away from the sense of mystery and awe that he found in everyday life.

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