John Keats: A Literary Biography, Page 26|
by Albert Elmer Hancock (1908).
Sometimes the sense of touch is described in terms of sight, as when the pilgrim in dream grazes the hand of Hebe with "dazzled lips." Sometimes the rapture of the body is conveyed by a powerful indirection:—
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Heaven shield thee for thine utter loveliness.
Brandes has been so impressed by this physical sensitivity of Keats that he writes his chapter under the caption of "The Poet of All-Embracing Sensuousness."
If this were the whole matter, or even the most important, Keats might well be regarded as the parent of the æsthetic degenerates. Man cannot live by bread alone. And a close examination of "Endymion" will reveal the copiousness of a higher poetic faculty. "Without losing its sensuousness," says Lowell, "his poetry refined itself and grew more inward. The sensation was elevated into the typical by the control of that finer sense which underlies the senses and is the spirit of them." Here we touch the essence of his genius, the line along which the ferment will more toward the eternal art of the "Grecian Urn." He preserves the warmth of bodily pleasure while consecrating that pleasure to the service of the soul. A thing of beauty is a joy forever because the earthly delight is given wings and flies from the low level of the ground into the empyrean of the imagination, to abide there in exalted freedom.
The silent workings of the dawn—
here the glow of the air, the light, the cloud, the sky are elements of the dawn-rapture; but the mind perceives something beyond the reach of sense. The lark, at the festival of Pan, invisible, lost in the sunshine, is still the singing bird; it is also an unbodied joy. Zephyr, fondling the flowers "amid the sobbing rain"; Juliet at her window, "tenderly weaning her fancy from its maiden snow"; the Indian bacchante nursing Sorrow at her breast:—
There is not one,
No, no, not one
But thee to comfort a poor lonely maid;
Thou art her mother,
And her brother,
Her playmate and her wooer in the shade.—
in these the mortal passion has been emancipated from the slavery of the flesh. Sensation lingers as sensation; yet it has been elevated into the domain of the soul.
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