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Updated on August 28, 2011


John Keats’ “Ode on Melancholy” truly proves that Keats’ love for beauty and Nature is not merely sensuous but also refined by imaginative and intellectual perception, as he really knows how to look for and appreciate the beautiful. In the poem we find keats perfectly convinced that true melancholy doesn’t lie in the sad and ugly things of life, but the in the joyous and beautiful objects of our earthly existence.

The opening stanza is more of a suggestion wherein Keats is welcoming melancholy. He is highlighting the equanimity that it brings and believes that it must be enjoyed and experienced alone. One should keep his share of melancholy to himself only and not let anyone else become a partner in his sorrows. One must not resort to ways of getting rid of melancholy by going to Lethe or having poisonous wine. According to Keats one must not even let death omens “drown the wakeful anguish of the soul” that only and only melancholy can bring. Keats has presented melancholy as a very unique and somewhat sacred sensation and has somewhat exalted it to a great extent.

Further, Keats says that when a melancholic fit befalls a person, like the rain that pours down from the clouds and that fosters and nourishes the drooping flowers, bringing them back to life. Keats is convinced that melancholy comes like a veil shrouding the greenery of April. So when one is in a melancholic mood he must not try to rid himself of it. Instead, he must further feed and nourish this melancholy on the beautiful things around him like the blooming roses, vibrant rainbow or the vivid flowers. Or if one’s beloved is angry then one must hold her hand and grasp this chance of getting closer to her and feed this melancholy on the beauty of her “peerless eyes”.

Keats then adopts a more realistic stance and declares beauty to be immortal, impermanent and subject to decay. He personifies melancholy into a goddess, who is enshrined in a beautiful temple, and dwells there along with beauty, joy and pleasure. All of them are inseparable and they share an unbreakable bond with melancholy. None of the three-beauty, joy or pleasure can be experienced or anticipated without first experiencing melancholy. In fact, melancholy is to be found at the very heart of delight. Only a very sensuous person, who has first experienced and appreciated melancholy can truly understand and cherish the feelings brought by joy and pleasure. Melancholy lives there in her shrine, and is veiled, and only those can unveil to see her who first can ‘burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine.” It is only this soul who will have the honor of experiencing the intensity of a feeling as purely sacred as melancholy.

Such an effective and optimistic presentation of melancholy has established it as a truly magnificent and pleasurable sensation. Keats has revealed the other side of this apparently gloomy feeling and unveiled its significance as a pre requisite to experiencing joy and pleasure. Such a magnificent and catch representation would mean that every reader would now crave for a melancholic fit!


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