Keats’ Concept of Beauty/ Discuss Keats ‘Beauty is Truth; Truth Beauty’.

Keats was considerably influenced by Spenser and was, like Spenser, a passionate lover of beauty in all its forms and manifestations. The passion of beauty constitutes his aestheticism. Beauty was his pole star, beauty in nature, in woman and in art. For him, ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’.

When we think of Keats, ‘Beauty’ comes to our mind. Keats and Beauty have become almost synonymous. We cannot think of Keats without thinking of Beauty. Beauty is an abstraction, it does not give out its meaning easily. For Keats, it is not so. He sees Beauty everywhere. Keats made Beauty his object of wonder and admiration and he became the greatest poet of Beauty. All the Romantic poets had a passion for one thing or the other. Wordsworth was the worshipper of Nature and Coleridge was a poet of the supernatural. Shelley stood for ideals and Byron loved liberty. With Keats the passion for Beauty was the greatest, rather the only consideration. In the letters of Keats, we frequently read about his own ideas about Beauty. In one of his letters to George and Tom, he wrote:

            “With a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other    consideration, or rather obliterates another consideration.”
He writes and identifies beauty with truth. Of all the contemporary poets Keats is one of the most inevitably associated with the love of beauty. He was the most passionate lover of the world as the career of beautiful images and of many imaginative associations of an object or word with a heightened emotional appeal. Poetry, according to Keats, should be the incarnation of beauty, not a medium for the expression of religious or social philosophy. Keats loved ‘the mighty abstract idea of Beauty in all things’. He could see Beauty everywhere and in every object. Beauty appeared to him in various forms and shapes—in the flowers and in the clouds, in the hills and rills, in the song of a bird and in the face of a woman, in a great book and in the legends of old. Beauty was there in the pieces of stone with carvings thereon. He hated didacticism in poetry. For the poetry itself was beauty so he wrote, “We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us.”  ’The lines of his poem ‘Endymion’ have become a maxim:
            “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
            Its loveliness increases; it will never
            Pass into nothingness”
He even disapproved Shelley for subordinating the true end of poetry to the object of social reform. He dedicated his brief life to the expression of beauty as
For Keats the world of beauty was an escape from the dreary and painful life or experience. He escaped from the political and social problems of the world into the realm of imagination. Unlike Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron and Shelley, he remained untouched by revolutionary theories for the regression of mankind. His later poems such as “Ode to a Nightingale” and “Hyperion” show an increasing interest in human problems and humanity and if he had lived he would have established a closer contact with reality. He may overall be termed as a poet of escape. With him poetry existed not as an instrument of social revolt nor of philosophical doctrine but for the expression of beauty. He aimed at expressing beauty for its own sake. Keats did not like only those things that are beautiful according to the recognized standards. He had deep insight to see beauty even in those things are hostile to beauty for ordinary people. He said:
            “I have loved the principle of beauty in all things.”

Keats perceives Beauty through his natural and spontaneous application of senses. He has an extraordinary sense-perception. He could perceive objects more intensely than other people. He derived great aesthetic delight at the sight of objects of Nature, of a fair face, of the works of art, legends old and new. Haydon, his friend, observed that “the humming of a bee, the sight of a flower, the glitter of the sun, seemed to make his nature tremble; then his eyes flashed, his cheeks glowed and his mouth quivered.” Every moment revealed to him a sensation of wonder and delight. He wrote, “The setting sun would always set me to right, or if a sparrow were before my window, I take part in his existence and pick about the gravel.” He derived aesthetic delight through his senses. He looked at autumn and says that even autumn has beauty and charm:
            “Where are the song of Spring? Ay, where are they?
            Think not of them, thou hast thy music too”

Keats was not only the last but also the most perfect of the Romantics while Scott was merely telling stories, and Wordsworth reforming poetry or upholding the moral law, and Shelley advocating the impossible reforms and Byron voicing his own egoism and the political measure. Worshipping beauty like a devotee, perfectly content to write what was in his own heart or to reflect some splendour of the natural world as he saw or dreamed it to be, he had the noble idea that poetry exists for its own sake and suffers loss by being devoted to philosophy or politics. Disinterested love of beauty is one of the qualities that made Keats great and that distinguished him from his great contemporaries. He grasped the essential oneness of beauty and truth. His creed did not mean beauty of form alone. His ideal was the Greek ideal of beauty inward and outward, the perfect soul of verse and the perfect form. Precisely because he held this ideal, he was free from the wish to preach. Keats’ early sonnets are largely concerned with poets, pictures, sculptures or the rural solitude in which a poet might nurse his fancy. His great odes have for their subjects a storied Grecian Urn; a nightingale; and the season of autumn, to which he turns from the songs of spring. The appreciation of Beauty in Keats is through mind or spirit. The approach becomes intellectual as he endorsees in ‘Ode on Grecian Urn’:
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty -that is all
         Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”
Art has captured Beauty of life and made it a truth for all the ages to be “a friend to man.” It is not the logical reaching after facts that helps in understanding the truth of things. Keats wrote, ‘What the imagination seizes as beauty must be true’ and it is his powerful assertion. His logic is simple: what is beautiful is truthful. What is ugly cannot be truthful. Find truth through beauty and beauty through truth. Beauty is no more a sensuous, physical or sentimental affair. It has spiritual associations; it is a concern of the soul of man for the salvation of man. Search for salvation must come from the heart of man and Keats knew it: “I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of Imagination—what the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth.” But a true poet sees life as a whole. A true poet, in the words of Keats, enjoys light and shade foul and fair with the same delight. Thus, his concept of beauty encompasses Joy and Sorrow and Melancholy and Happiness which cannot be separated. Imagination reveals a new aspect of beauty, which is ‘sweeter’ than beauty which is perceptible to the senses. The senses perceive only the external aspect of beauty, but imagination apprehends its essence. 

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