Introduction: John Keats (1795-1821) was an English Romantic poet and a sensuous lover of beauty. He was one of the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets, along with Lord Byron, and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Although his poems were not generally well received by critics during his lifetime, his reputation grew after his death, and by the end of the 19th century, he had become one of the most beloved of all English poets.
Sensuousness refers to five human senses: taste, touch, hearing, sight, and smell. John Keats had a strong and deep knowledge of beauty and sensuousness. He used this advantage in his writings. The tenor of his poetry is” A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” The poetry of Keats is characterized by ‘sensuous’ uses of language. The sensuousness of Keats is a striking characteristic of his poems including his great odes. The odes which represent the highest achievement of Keats are replete with sensuous pictures. John Keats’ sensuous talent which influenced Matthew Arnold is limned here poem-wise.
“Ode to a Nightingale”
“Ode to a Nightingale” is one of the most remarkable poems of sensuousness in Keats’ basket. It is a poem that contains the passion for eternal beauty. The poem begins with a drawing of the effect of the song of the Nightingale on the human body and mind. In the second stanza of this ode, there is a narration of the gustatory sensation of drinking wine. There are references to the visual and auditory senses too. The poet also paints the picture of a drunken whose mouth is purple stained because of the red wine he has drunk:
“With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth.”
In the 5th stanza, the poet gives a highly sensuous description of Nightingale’s world that alludes to the senses of sight or its absence (one cannot see): the senses of touch and smell (soft incense), and by the end of the verse, with the evocation of ”the coming musk-rose, full of dew wine”, the sense of taste and hearing have also been incorporated.
“Ode on Melancholy”
“Ode on Melancholy” again, we have several sensuous pictures. This poem shows us the ephemeral quality of beauty. According to Keats, beauty and joy are the real sources of melancholy. There is the rain falling from a loud above and reviving the drooping flowers below and covering the green hill in an “April”. There presents the morning rose and there are colors produced by the rainbow lying on the wet sand, and the wealth of “globed peonies”. And then:
“Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Imprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.”
Keats saw that human life is full of suffering and he himself was prey to disease and pain. He feels sad because he can only enjoy the beauty for a short time. Thus, the poet allies Melancholy with beauty. Besides that, the Goddess of Melancholy lives under the veil with the God of Joy. The God of Joy always keeps his finger on his lips to bid farewell to his worshippers.
“Ode on a Grecian”
The “Ode on a Grecian” Urn contains a series of sensuous pictures- passionate men and Gods chasing reluctant maidens, the fair trying to kiss his beloved, the happy branches of the tree enjoying an everlasting spring, etc. The rapture of the passion of love and of youth is finely drawn in the following lines:
“More happy love! more happy, happy love!
Forever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
Forever painting, and forever young.”
Conclusion: Thus, Keats always selects the objects of his writings and imagery with a keen eye on their beauteous and sensuous appeal. These qualities are the principal charm of his poetry. His treatment of beauty overcome every other concern. Among all, he is the king poet of beauty. It looks like that beauty is his religion.