Keats search for organic form


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Keats search for organic form

  1. 1. Please cite this Article as : , : Indian Streams Research Journal (Sept. ; 2012) Khalil Abdul Hameed and Mohammed Saif Alquraidhy Keats Search for Organic Form Volume 2, Issue. 8, Sept 2012 Indian Streams Research Journal The Romantic Movement created a new approach to Language. This explains the fact that there was no singular, fixed pattern of Language to be followed by the poets. Each according to his inspiration was the basic principle in the use of Language. Behind this basic principle was the belief common to all romantic poets because shared by all of them, in the origin of Language as used by the poets. The language was supposed to be the direct product of the content of the poem. The relationship between the two is organic, a term which can be explained only in terms of biology. The poem as a whole is an organic whole. The poet is not a craftsman who has already discerned the content and then arranges it in mechanistic terms. The language, rather, evolves out of the content; it is not something arranged and rearranged in a mechanical way. The evolution of language from content is natural; it is the natural growth of the parts of the structure.The innermost most sincere feeling of the poet evolves out of itself, a shape or form of its own. This form contains, within itself, the true voice of feeling.This is the organic relationship of the content and form. Poetry is apprehension of reality. This apprehension is done by the consciousness of the poet. Then it tries to express itself or its apprehension effortlessly in a natural way or form. Thus expression becomes a part of consciousness itself. It is not worn as a fancy dress. It is felt that it will then serve to disguise our feeling. The ideal is now, both in clothes and poetry, to dress as inconspicuously as possible. TheAugustan idea of literary expression assigns two tasks to the poet – to have an emotion and, then, to find a suitable form to dress it properly and decently.The Romantic Philosophy turns these two different activities into one organic activity – emotion spontaneously evolving a form for itself. It is like the baby evolving itself in the womb of the mother. Coleridge explains this process in this way – "as every passion has its proper pulse, so will it likewise have its characteristic modes of expression". (Biographia Literaria, Chapter XVIII). The Abstract: On theninthofOctober,1818 KeatswrotetoJ.A.Hessey aboutthedefectsofthe poem" Endymion". He wrote - "That which is creative must create itself". (Letters 1.242- 3). This is the concept of the Organic Form as different form. The Rhetorical form in the latter is the imposition of form on thought from outside. The former is the creation of form from within; every feeling has its own form of expression; the form comes with the thoughtitself;itgrows anddevelopswiththefeeling.This is theorganicbeautyofpoetry. Keats understood it after so many continuous failures. He failed because, in this own words, he "moved into the Go-cart from the leading strings". ( Letters, 1, 116 -7 ). Thoughts were his own but the forms he borrowed from Spenser, Milton or Shakespeare. His thoughts should have their own forms. He achieved this organic unity ofthoughtand form, for thefirsttime,inhis Odes. ISSN:-2230-7850 Keats Search for Organic Form Khalil Abdul-Hameed Mohammed Saif Alquraidhy Ph. D. Research Scholar, English Department, Bangalore University Available online at ORIGINAL ARTICLE
  2. 2. pulse knows how to record the best of the passion. Shakespeare's versification is the best example of the pulse spontaneously recording its beat. That is why Shakespeare involved his own blank verse; it became a vehicle of his peculiar manner of thinking. Full, free, poetic language expresses the truth of life. This famousspeechof Macbethcanbecitedasanexample– Macbeth:ifitweredonewhen 'tis done,then'twerewell. Itweredonequickly:If theassassination Couldtrammeluptheconsequence,andcatch, Withhissurceasesuccess;thatbutthisblow Mightbethebe-allandtheend-allhere Buthere,uponthisbankandshoaloftime We'djumpthelifetocome…. (Macbeth,Act1.Sc.II lines1-7) It is the free rhythm that Macbeth's passion demands. Here, passion, rhythm and language move alltogetherandthusthepoetislefttowork for therevelationof thetruthof life. This truth of life contains the essence of life. It is not a truth working at the surface of the common society and the ordinary world. The surface can be reflected by a mere surface language that the poet handles and manipulates. The language must be capable of fathoming the experience and expressing its truth. So it should be different. Here the poet allows the very act of poetic composition to imply the unusual state of excitement and to produce it in a corresponding different language. It is proverbially said that the wheels take fire from the mere rapidity of their motion.The language takes its shape in the very formulation of the sensation, emotion and passion. The oft-repeated example of this quality of language is the comparison between two poems on Daffodil flowers. One isTo Daffodils by Robert Herrick and the other is Daffodils byWordsworth. In the former a very common experience undergone by the poet has been literally transcribedinaverycommonLanguage.Thesurfacecontentis matchedbythesurfacelanguage FairDaffodils,we weeptosee youHasteawayso soon; As yettheearly-risingsun Has notattain'dhis noone.(1-4) But, in the latter, a new experience involving an intense emotion and imagination, has been transcribedinalanguagethatmatchestheintensityoftheemotionandimagination– Iwanderedlonelyasacloud Thatfloatson higho'er valesandhills, WhenallatonceIsaw acrowd, Ahostofgoldendaffodils; Besidethelake,Beneaththetrees, Flutteringanddancinginthebreeze.(1-6) The congruence between the experience and the expression is important with Romantic idea of language. The authentic language, in its own form, can give such an authenticity to the poet's experience that it becomes easy for the reader to recognize it as such. The Language takes it to the level at which the expression of it touches the reader and arouses his sensibility to respond to it spontaneously.The expression and the experience are congruent in Wordsworth that it is difficult to point out which precedes whom. The language, the words, phrases and images are all around him waiting to help him in his expression; the experience, on its way, chooses the one most capable of expressing it. The greatness of the poem and the poetdependsupon thischoiceandcombinationofexperienceandexpression. It is said that Coleridge has been the exponent of the principle of organic unity in poetry. Nothing that is “superadded”, merely stuck on to give an optional extra pleasure, can really please in a poem. Every one of its characteristics must grow out of its whole nature and be an integral part of it. This is related to Coleridge's distinction between imagination and fancy. Imagination achieves the true unity of expression. InhisBiographiaLiteraria,Coleridgesays – The poet, described in ideal perfection brings the whole soul of man into activity, with the subordination of its faculties to each other, according to their relative worth and dignity. He diffuses a tone and spirit of unity, that blends, and (as it were) fuses, each into each, by that synthetic and magical power, to which we have exclusively appropriated the name of imagination. This power, first put in action by the will 2Keats Search for Organic Form Indian Streams Research Journal • Volume 2 Issue 8 • Sept 2012
  3. 3. and understanding, and retained under their irremissive, though gentle and unnoticed, control reveals itself in the balance or reconciliation of opposite or discordant qualities: of sameness, with difference; of the general, with the concrete; the idea, with the image; the individual, with the representative the sense of novelty and freshness, with old and familiar objects; a more than usual order; judgement ever awake and steady self-possession, with enthusiasm and feeling profound or vehement; and while if blends and harmonizes the natural and the artificial, still subordinates art to nature; the manner to the matter; and our admiration of the poet to our sympathy with the poetry. “Doubtless”, as Sir John Davies observes of the soul (and his words may with slight alteration be applied, and even more appropriately, to the poetic Imagination). “…………………………………………... Thusdoes she, when fromindividualstates Shedothabstracttheuniversalkinds; Whichthenre-clothedindiversnamesandfates Stealaccessthroughour senses toourminds.” Finally, Good Sense is the Body of poetic genius, Fancy its Drapery, Motion its Life, and ImaginationtheSoulthatis everywhere,andineach;andforms allintoonegracefulandintelligentwhole. (ChapterXIV) Poetry, according to Coleridge, brings “the whole soul of man” into activity, with each faculty playing its proper art according to its “relative worth and dignity". This takes place whenever the “secondary imagination” comes into operation. We can only understand what poetry in this larger sense really is, if we appreciate the way in which the human faculties are employed together in its production. Thus Coleridge defines poetry through an account of how the poet works: the poet works, through the exercise of his imagination. Whenever the synthesizing, the integrating, powers of what Coleridge calls the secondary imagination are at work, bringing all aspects of a subject into a complex unity, then poetry in this larger sense results. It is distinguished from works of literature that are not poems “by proposing to itself such delight from the whole, as is compatible with a destined gratification from each component part.” But though a poem is to be distinguished from Science, from the non-literary arts, and from other kinds of literature, and its uniqueness can be seen only when we have made these distinctions, it is a product of the secondary imagination, of the “esemplastic power”, the unifying power which enables all the faculties to be brought into play simultaneously, each playing its proper part, to produce a complex synthesis of comprehension.And thatisasignificantpartofitsfunction. The notion of organic unity is common to Coleridge's view of poetry. “Nothing can permanently please which does not contain in itself the reason why it is so, and not otherwise”, he remarked in discussing the place of rhyme and meter in a poem. Nothing that is “superadded”, merely stuck on for ornament or decoration, can really please in a poem: every one of its characteristics must grow out of its whole nature and be an integral part of it.All this is related to Coleridge's distinction between imagination and fancy. The former is more fitted to achieve true unity or expression: “it dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to re- create…. It is essentially vital"…. But "fancy” has no other counters to play with but fixities and definites”. Fancy constructs surface decorations out of new combinations of memories and perceptions, while the imagination “generates and produces a form of its own”.The operation of the imagination can be compared to organic or biological growth and the forms it produces are organic forms, developing under its "shaping and modifying power” which is contrasted with “the aggregative and associate power” of the fancy. The imagination enables the poet to achieve design which is described not in mechanistic but in biological terms,notafittingtogetherofanumberofseparablepartsbutafloweringforthof centralunity. Again the classical examples cited for fancy and imagination are To Daffodils of Herrick and Daffodils of Wordsworth respectively. In Coleridge, we have a different, almost a distinct strand of romanticism. It is apparent in his fondness for the strange beauty. It is a beauty that flies away from the familiar, daylight realities of our common existence into the region remote, exotic and mysteriously unfamiliar.ItisthesamemysteriousbeautythathasbeendescribedinColeridge'spoemKublaKhan – Asavageplace!As holyandenchanted As e'erbeneathawaningmoonwas haunted Bywomanwailingfor herdemonlover!(14-16) Again– ….To such adeepdelight'twouldwinme, Thatwithmusicloudandlong, Iwould buildthatdomeinair, 3 Indian Streams Research Journal • Volume 2 Issue 8 • Sept 2012 Keats Search for Organic Form
  4. 4. Thatsunny dome!thoseCavesof ice!(44-47) The Subject is mysterious and it evolves a language that projects and creates new harmonies of meaning. It becomes highly suggestive. It creates an aura of dim but alluring association which clings to words and images. That is the content of the poem – not conveying anything particular, anything real, but only an aura of dim but alluring associations. The words and images create these associations, almost re- create them as imagination does. It is an example of the content of the poem generating and producing a language and a form of its own. The language comes to his poem naturally and spontaneously with its simplicityandpellucidpurityofdiction. Among the second generation of poets, Byron was a poet in a very different mode. But in his case also the content and the language are organically connected. In the mould of a poet he was really a revolutionary who proved a fruitful source of inspiration to the political revolutionaries all over Europe. His poems ring with a stentorian voice; it had sent a new life coursing through the feeble hearts of Europe. Naturally that voice created for itself the language of an orator; it came out to be a rhetorical language. Don Juan contains one of the spirited and tear-compelling patriotic songs on the object degradation of the brave Greeceinpoliticaldamage– 'Tissomething,inthedearthof fame, Thoughlink'damongafetteredrace, To fellatleastapatriot`sshame, Evenas Ising, suffuse myface; For whatisleftthepoethere? For Greeks ablush–for Greeceatear…(25-30) The language is bold, severe admitting a few ornaments which have been immediately and closely suggested by the glowing imagination of the poet. The language rises and sinks with the tones of his enthusiasm. Sometimes it roughens into an argument; none has hurled defiance and mockery at Napoleon withgreaterfiercenessthanByron– ConquerorandCaptiveof theearthartthou! she tremblesatthestill,andthywildname was ne'ermorefruitedinmen's mindsthannow? Thatthouarenothing,savethejestof fame. Sometimes it softens into the melody of feeling and sentiment. In his best lyrics, his longing for the ideal love and union of hearts has been expressed by him in a language which has the hall-mark of authenticity and unaffected sincerity of feeling. It appears as if the language for either was at the command of the poet. The numbers only came uncalled. They arranged themselves with little care on his part into the variedmodulationswhichthesubjectrequires. The poems of Shelley are an excellent example of the poet's imagination giving a shape to both content and form. They evolve one from another, like the baby evolving itself in the womb of the mother. Shelley is more famous for his lyrics. A genuine lyric is a strain of pure song. It gushes out spontaneously from the core of a deeply moved heart. Its pre-requisites are (a) a sensitive, passionate and inflammable heart, and (b) a command over the musical resources of the language. Epithets and images are in perfect accord with the sentiment and the rhythm. The result is that its form and content appear to be born together in their blended might. Like his own skylark, hidden in “the golden lightning of the sunken sun”, his poems poured down “profuse strains of unpremeditated art”. The impulse of mood, and emotion merges with the rhythm and movement of lines in his poetry. In the poem Ode to the West Wind the impetuosity of the wild west wind ishappilyreproducedby therush andsustainedtempoof thelines– ….Yellow, andblack,andpale,andhecticred Pestilence-strickenmultitudes.O thou, Whochariotesttotheirdarkwintrybed, Thewingedseeds, wheretheyliecoldandlow Eachlikeacorpsewithinitsgraveuntil Thineazuresisterof thespring shallblow Her clariono'er thedreamingearth,andfill (Drivingsweetbuds likeflockstofeedinair) Withlivinghues andodors plainandhill:(4-12) 4 Indian Streams Research Journal • Volume 2 Issue 8 • Sept 2012 Keats Search for Organic Form
  5. 5. In Ode to a Skylark, the stanza of four short and panting lines, represents the floating and running of the bird and the quick ecstatic upward flight and the easy floating movement. Cazamian , in his book A HistoryofEnglishLiterature(1943) says – The flowing ease with which the words merge into one another at the same time as the ideas they call forth join up together, goes to prove that for Shelley, the most poetical of poets, the psychogical melody andthecadenceofsyllables,theoneas spontaneousas theother, naturallyformedbutonemusic.(P.303) The poems of Keats are supposed to be the best examples of the spontaneous, luxurious and organic growth of content and language. This is so specially in his Odes where form and content are inseparable like body and soul. The imaginative richness of the Ode to a Nightingale is the result of the fusion of diverse, even opposite elements, into a harmonious whole. The elements of three worlds – the classical (in the first stanza); the Biblical (home-sick Ruth amid alien corn) and the mediaeval (charmed magic casements): the world of ideal happiness which is the world of ideal happiness which is the nightingale and the real life of humanity on the earth – "where men sit and hear each other groan" – the desire "to fade far away and dissolve" and the sad conviction that "fancy can not cheat" permanently into the complete oblivion of the aches and heartbreaks of life-all these and many other elements are blended together. The richness of the momentary experience in the world of the nightingale melts into the richness ofdeathwhichalonecanprovideacompletereleasefromthe"anguish of theflesh" and"acheofthespirit". Ode toAutumn is a perfect specimen of the Hellenic symmetry of form where each part is at once a distinct and self-contained unit and the integral part of a larger whole to the unity of which it effectually contributes. As a matter of fact the Great Odes of Keats are a standing monument to the extraordinary capacity of the poet for blending together the discipline of classicism which constitutes the hallmark of the highest art. The centrifugal romantic passions chastened and subdued by an intellectual discipline which shows itself (a)inthelong-drawn,slow-movinglinesandtheircombinationincomplexandharmonious stanza-forms; (b)in the careful distribution of colour, light and shade and the deft manipulation of the vowel and consonantalsounds; (c)inthelogicalevolutionofthoughtorsentiment; (d)and above all, in the choice of the effective and felicitous word and the extreme density of the texture of thewholepoem. Keats started with the remark that poetry should surprise us with a fine excess. But he soon realized that the 'excellence of every art is intensity'.This movement from 'excess' to 'intensity' was twofold – structural and textural. The loose and amorphous couplets of Endymion were tightened under the influence of Dryden. He experimented with so many verse-forms before arriving at his original music in the various stanza forms invented by him in the great Odes where form and content are inseparable like body and soul. In the verbal texture also the luxuriant and prodigal pomp of the early poems is gradually pruned of the superfluities of ornament and imagery. Keats arrives at finality of his style in the Odes where the richness and opulence are by no means totally absent but every detail is precise and exact. Every phrase is notonlyeffectiveandappropriatebutalsorepletewithsuggestiveandassociationalwealth. There is one great secret of 'the rounded perfection' of Keats's phrase – namely, the growing use of 'participial' phrases as 'epithets' to indicate the momentary arrest and suspension of energy and movement at asinglepoint– 'beadedbubbleswinkingatthebrain', 'purplestainedmouth' 'poppiedwarmth' 'icedstream' Apartfromthesethesingleepithetsandcompoundwords areequallyrichandcondensed– 'drowsy numbness' 'sun burntmirth' 'unravishedbride' The condensation in imagery is the result of an increasing concentration on the tactile effects as if he were eagertotouchandgrasp andsolidifyeverythingabstractor concert– 'abeakerfullofthewarmsouth' 'leaden-eyeddespair' In this way the whole effort of Keats's consummate craftsmanship was guided by the single desire "to concentrate all the far-reaching resources of the language upon one point so that a single and apparently 5 Indian Streams Research Journal • Volume 2 Issue 8 • Sept 2012 Keats Search for Organic Form
  6. 6. effortless expression results when the aesthetic imagination is most expectant and exacting." Keats commenced his career with Spenserian opulence and diffuseness of diction and imagery but moved towards thatsolidityandcondensationwhichistrulyShakespeareanandMiltonic. His narrative poems like St. Agens' Eve and Lamia are remarkable neither for their dramatic tension nor for vivid characterization and profound human interest. Their significance lies mainly in the evidence which they provide of the poet's attempt at objectivity, negative capability and organic unity which was the final goal of John Keats and the steady growth of his poetic and artistic maturity. Keats has learnt to make even his apparently pictorial and luscious descriptive passages functional and subservient interest of the story. In Lamia the elaborate depiction of the palace of magical splendor and heaped up luxuries is necessary to bring home to us its utter hollowness and unsubstantiality in the light of the cold stare of pitiless rationality. In this way the narrative poems represent the midpoint in the development of Keats's poetic art and from 'the fine excess' of Endymion to the severe outline and concentrated wealth as well as the balanced poise of To Autumn, where every stanza rises to the Crest of the movement and then subsides toapointofrepose,whilethenextwaveis underwayinthestanzawhichfollows. NOTES 1 BiographiaLiteraria,ChapterXIV 2 LordByron,TheIsles ofGreece. 3 LordByron, ChildeHarold's Pilgrimage,CantotheThird,StanzaNo. XXXVII. 1816. 6 Indian Streams Research Journal • Volume 2 Issue 8 • Sept 2012 Keats Search for Organic Form