Similarities and differences between the poetry of William Wordsworth and John Keats
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William Wordsworth secured the reputation of being one of the great Romantic poets. His verse celebrates the moral influence exerted by nature on human thought and feeling.
Considered one of England’s greatest poets, John Keats was a key element in the Romantic Movement , know especially for his love of nature , his poetry also resonated with deep philosophic questions.
Wordsworth has secured the reputation of being one of the great Romantic poets. Although often viewed as a ‘nature poet ‘ , his poetry is not simply concerned with scenic and descriptive evocations of nature , but rather with the issues of Man , Human Nature and Man’s relationship with the natural world.The ‘Lyrical Ballads’ , produced in association with Coleridge and published in 1798 , sought to revolution in English poetry , bringing a new emphasis on natural subjects ,clarity of diction .Wordsworth ‘s theories , outlined in the ‘Preface’ which opened the volume , emphasized the poet’s role as a ‘Man among men , speaking to Men’ using the language really used by men, and with particular emphasis on the use of poetry as means of exploring human feelings and emotions.
In many ways, Keats’ life modeled the period he lived in ;
it was very short , yet still produced some of the most influential poetry in the history of the world.
The volume :Lamia,Isabella,The Eve of St.Agnes and Other Poems is generally considered the greatest volume of poetry by any English poet ,with the single exception of Shakespeare ‘s sonnets. Except for a few sonnets, this volume contains virtually all the poetry upon which Keats’ reputation is based .All of these poems possess the distinctive qualities of the work of Keats’ maturity : a gracious movement , a concreteness of description in which all the senses-tactile, visual , gustatory -combine to give the total apprehension of an experience .He finds melancholy in delight , and pleasure in pain ; he feels the highestintensity of love as an approximation to death; he inclines towards a life of sensation and and towards a life of thought ; he is aware both of the attraction of an imaginative dream world and the pressure of the actual ; he aspires at the same time for aesthetic detachment and for social responsibility .
For Wordsworth , following on from the example of eighteenth century writers and philosophers such as Rousseau ,Nature and the natural world was man’s ‘natural ‘home.The importance of the relationship with nature in Wordsworth’s own life is explored in the mainly autobiographical poem Tintern Abbey and the Prelude.
Wordsworth wrote in an age that felt a new appreciation for the sublime in the natural world.In Tintern Abbey ,Wordsworth writes about a ‘green pastoral landscape ‘ and he claims that ‘Nature never did betray /The heart that loved her’.He shows nature to be a gentle and nurturing force , who teaches force who teaches and soothes humanity.
For Wordsworth , nature plays a comforting role, the poet sees nature as an eternal and sublime entity .Rather than placing man and nature in opposition, Wordsworth views them as complementary elements of a whole, recognizing man as a part of nature .Hence , Wordsworth looks at the world and sees not an alien force against which he must struggle , but rather a comforting entity of which he is a part.
Wordsworth uses a technique that departs completelyfrom the Neoclassical tradition , where the emphasis was placed on order and balance and reasoned thoughts , even in form.Wordsworth takes the liberty to write in blank verse , often without punctuation between lines , underlining the Romantic ideal of emotion.
Rejecting the contemporary emphasis on form and an intellectual approach that drained poetic writing of strong emotion , he maintained that the scenes snd events of everyday life and the speech of ordinary people were the raw material of which poetry could and should be made.Much of Wordsworth’s easy flow of conversational blank verse has true lyrical power and grace , and his finest work is permeated by a sense of the human relationship to external nature that is religious in his scope and intensity .To Wordsworth , God was everywhere manifest in the harmony of nature , and he felt deeply the kinship between nature and the soul of mankind.
On the other hand , Keats was endowed with an unusually keen perception of sensuous beauty in the objects and phenomena of nature and had an acute susceptibility for forms, colours ,sounds and movements , for all those qualities by which the particular self and structure of a thing was distinguished.The sensorial acuity enable him to apprehend the reality of the material world in all its fullness , with all its shades of difference and with an extraordinary intensity and brighteness.The contemplation of a landscape was for him a feast of shapes , colour , light, shades of music and he delighted in the vividness of his sensations as much as he did in the objects perceived.No wonder, therefore , that he could sense natural beauty with the sharpness of a painter and translate it into poetic language so graphically and with an accuracy , lifelikeness and concretness that had not been met in English poetry since the Renaissance.(I stood tip-toe upon a little hill,/ The air was cooling , and so very still ‘).
Speaking about Keats’ craftsmanship we must point out the fact that the unique beauty of his poetry is due to the blending of three elements: colour, emotion and melody .In the poems of Keats’ maturity , his language shines with all the gems of speech .The rhythms handled with great mastery , prove that Keats is an artist who is alive to the power of music.
In Ode to a Grecian Urn , Keats finds eternity in the beauty of art.Inscried upon the urn , the images of ancient life have been given immortality.This immortality , however , is not entirely a blessing.Describing the picture of two lovers , Keats strikes a balance between the positive and the negative aspects of eternal existence:
‘Bold lover, never canst for kiss,
Though winning near the goal-yet donot grieve;
not fade , though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever will though love , and she be fair’
In a way , Keats envies the pair fortheir immortality :they are perpetually young and in love , never knowing any sorrow.
On the other hand , however, Keats notes that they can never kiss , for they are frozen in time , unable to fulfill the full promise of their lives.Knowing no sorrow, the lovers’ joy is ultimately meaningless , for happiness can only be experienced in contrast to suffering .Recognizing this fact , Keats shows how man’s impossible quest for immortality manifests itself in art.Seeking to achieve permanence , we create images that will carry on through time.Though art may surpass man chronologically , it never actually lives , and hence can only mimic the true essence of human existence.
Wordsworths finds permanence in nature rather than art. For Wordsworth , nature represents eternity , existing long before and after the lives of men.In Tintern Abbey , Wordsworth writes that we must be able to look at nature and recognize our transitory existence , seeing that we are but a single flux in the everlasting flow of the whole.Hence, Wordsworth suggests that we comfort ourselves with nature’s immortality , finding in it the ‘anchor’ of its own building .
Joy has a different meaning in Keats’ ode, and it is a transient pleasure like any other,’whose hand is ever at his lips/bidding adieu’ in expectation of its death.In Ode to a Nightingale , Keats portrays death as an entity that follows the author.Keats , having called Death ‘soft names in many a mused rhyme ‘ , expresses his past appeals for a gentle end.Keats approaches his death with Romantic serenity, the contemplation has led him to accept death in its imminence and reality ; in the poem he has turned to the hope of a fair and gentle passing.
When he died Keats gave promise of becoming the greatest poet of his generation, amd one of who, better than any other , would have united the free inspiration of Romanticism with principle of the schools of the past.Some hundred of lines raise him to the level of the highest , and his influence has never ceased to grow.
One of the earliest English Roamantic poet , William Wordsworth did much to restore simple diction to English poetry and to establish Romanticism as the era’s dominat literary movement.