As you might already be aware, John Keats died when he was 25. He appears to have succumbed to tuberculosis. Considering his short life, it seems relevant to talk about how he addressed themes of mortality, the creative process, and love. He seemed to do all three in a rather...
As you might already be aware, John Keats died when he was 25. He appears to have succumbed to tuberculosis. Considering his short life, it seems relevant to talk about how he addressed themes of mortality, the creative process, and love. He seemed to do all three in a rather short period of time.
In "Bright Star," we note how Keats contrasts himself with the eponymous subject of the poem. What makes Keats envious of the bright star? It seems to be its "steadfast" nature. Unlike Keats, the bright star will always be around. It will always get to see "snow upon the mountains" and "moving waters at their priestlike tasks."
Again, it's almost like Keats is jealous of the bright star. Keats, too, want to be able to witness nature's beauty for eternity. If he can't? Then he'd rather "swoon to death."
With "Bright Star," we might note the extremeness of the options: it's either immortality or death. Both are absolute and final. How could we link that to love? Love, too, can be all-consuming and intoxicating. Keats speaks to the enthralling element of love when he asks to "feel for ever" his "fair love's ripening breast."
Since we did not get to the creative process in "Big Star," let's start with how Keats addresses the creative process in "Nightingale." Let's start with stanza four. How does Keats plan to join the magical, fantastical bird? Not "by Bacchus" (aka Dionysus, aka the god of wine), but by the "viewless wings of Poesy".
Here, we see the creative process as a means to escape the banal world of the "dull brain." Posey—poetry—grants Keats access to a mysterious, mystical word where "there is no light" except from what heaven’s breezes blow in.
As with "Bright Star," Keats seem keen on intoxication and an all-consuming experience. He drops the phrase "in embalmed darkness." He tells us he can't "see what flowers" are at his feet. It's like his senses and perceptions have become too jumbled, disordered, and overwhelmed to manage.
We see more links to "Bright Star" when Keats links the ecstatic world of the bird to death (or Death). "Now more than ever seems it rich to die," says Keats.
While Keats will die, his poems live on. We might think of how the poems make Keats like the "immortal bird." You might want to focus on how the bird's voice Keats hears in the poem was the same voice heard in "ancient days by emperor and clown."
Is there a parallel to make between the bird's voice (its art) and Keats own art (his poems)? Are we not reading the same poems that others have read in periods that may feel “ancient” to us? How might the creation of poetry or any art be a grasp for immortality? When we make something, is there a part of us that wants it to be around forever even if we—the maker—can't be?