JOHN KEATS:KEATS’S AESTHETICISMKEATS’S LOVE OF BEAUTY KEATS AS A POET OF ESCAPE
Keats was much impressed by Spencer and was a passionate lover of beauty in all its forms. His aestheticism consistsof his passion for beauty. Beauty was his polar-star, beauty in Nature, in woman, and in art. He writes and identifiesbeauty with truth that “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever”. Keats is very much associated with love of beauty in theordinary sense of the term. He was the most passionate lover of the world as the carrier of beautiful images and of the many imaginative associations of an objector word with whatever might give it a heightened emotional appeal.According to Keats, poetry should be the embodiment of beauty, not a medium for the expression of religious orsocial philosophy.For Keats, the world of beauty was an escape from the dull, gloomy and painful effects of ordinary experience. Heescaped from the political and social problems of the world into the realm of imagination. Unlike Wordsworth,Coleridge, Byron and Shelley, he remained absolutely untouched by revolutionary theories for the regeneration of mankind. His poems, such as, the “Ode to a Nightingale” and “Hyperion”, show an increasing interest in humanity andhuman problems, and if he had lived, he would have established a closer contact with reality. So, he may not whollybe termed as a poet of escape. He uses poetry not as an instrument of social revolt, but for the expression of beauty.The famous opening line of Endymion--- ‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever’--- strikes the key-note of his work. As themodern world seemed to him to be hard, cold and lacking imagination, he habitually sought an imaginative escapefrom it. But, this escape was not like Shelley into the future land of promise, but into the past Greek mythology, as inEndymion, Lamia and Hyperion, or of medieval romances, as in “The Eve of St. Agnes”, Isabella and “La Belle DameSans Merci”. In his treatment of Nature, this same passion for sensuous beauty is still the dominant feature. He lovedNature just for its own sake and for the glory and loveliness which he everywhere found in it, and no modern poet hasever been nearer than he was to the simple “Poetry of earth”. For him, there was nothing mystical in love, and Naturewas never full for him, as for Wordsworth and Shelley, with spiritual messages and meanings.Keats was not only the last but also the most perfect of the romanticists. While Scott was merely telling stories, andWordsworth reforming poetry or upholding the moral law, and Shelley advocating impossible reforms, and Byronvoicing his own egoism and the political discontent of the times, Keats lived apart from men and from all politicalmeasures, worshipping beauty like a devotee, perfectly content to write what was in his own heart or to reflect somesplendor of the natural world as he saw or dreamed it to be. He had the novel idea that poetry exists for its own sakeand suffers a loss by being devoted to philosophy or politics.Disinterested love of beauty is one of the great qualities of Keats that distinguished him from his contemporaries. Hegrasped the essential oneness of beauty and truth. His creed did not mean beauty of form alone. His ideal was theGreek ideal of beauty inward and outward, the perfect soul of verse as well as the perfect from. And because he heldthis ideal, he was free from the wish to preach.Love, for him was a bed of roses into which one sinks with a delicious sense of release from pain, responsibility andmoral inhibition. He tried his best, in his long fantasy of Endymion, to rise above the notion of love as the “merecommingling of passionate breath” and to depict love as “a sort of oneness, “a fellowship with essence”.According to Cazamian, the aestheticism of Keats has also an intellectual side. No one has ever reaped such a harvestof thoughts out of the suggestions which life had to offer. Through reading, and a thirst for knowledge, he becameacquainted with Greece, paganism and ancient art. From all these elements, Keats built for himself a personal store of reflections and ideas. Religion for him took definite shape in the adoration of the beautiful, an adoration which hedeveloped into a doctrine. Beauty is the supreme Truth. This idealism assumes a note of mysticism.