"Autobiographies of great nations are written in three manuscripts – a book of deeds, a book of words, and a book of art.
Of the three, I would choose the latter as truest testimony." - Sir Kenneth Smith, Great Civilisations

"I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine." - Leo Tolstoy

I have never believed that one should wait until one is inspired because I think the pleasures of not writing are so
great that if you ever start indulging them you will never write again. - John Updike

"The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour
is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it." - J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

John Keats - The Human Seasons

Poet John Keats

John Keats, 1795-1821
Composed at Teignmouth by Sep. 1818

Four Seasons fill the measure of the year;
There are four seasons in the mind of man:
He has his lusty Spring, when fancy clear
Takes in all beauty with an easy span:
He has his Summer, when luxuriously
Spring's honied cud of youthful thought he loves
To ruminate, and by such dreaming high
Is nearest unto heaven: quiet coves
His soul has in its Autumn, when his wings
He furleth close; contented so to look
On mists in idleness—to let fair things
Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook.
He has his Winter too of pale misfeature,
Or else he would forego his mortal nature.


John Keats - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Keats
Study Guide - http://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/Guides2/Keats.html

Analysis 1

John Keats writes The Human Seasons because he feels as though every season is comparable to a human emotion.He gives the reader a brief but in depth description of each season and shows how it pertains to a certain emotion humans feel.For example, “Spring, when fancy clear Takes in all beauty with an easy span:” (Keats, 2-3).Keats uses symbolism with the seasons to go beyond the literal meaning of spring, and infer that spring conveys a very easy and outgoing emotion. Spring is birth and life again from Winter.Summer describes a very youthful personality.It is a time of dreaming and exploring.Autumn portrays a relaxed personality.It is a time to sit back and take in the surrounding beauty.Winter is a distasteful personality, but is comforting because it allows people to look forward to the transition of Spring, or more positive personalities.In this poem, John Keats is able to look beyond the literal nature of seasons and provide a profound insight into human nature. 

Analysis 2

The four stages of human life are like the four seasons of a year.Each stage has a compilation of lengthy dramas and stories of experiences from the cradle to the grave.It applies for both the human body and the human mind.For what is life here on earth? it is but a short journey we all undertake till our purpose is done.We all are formed from the dust and to the dust we shall all return one day.

The first stage of human life is the birth and the childhood days,which is compared to the season of Spring.This Season is believed to be the rebirth of Nature's life here on earth.It is characterized by warmth, spots of flora emerging everywhere on the naked ground,sounds of all types of birds in the air, movement of wild animals in the forest and very bright sunshine.This is the Season of optimism and hope.From birth till late childhood, life for every child is almost the beginning of a bright and a shiny future.Childhood is featured by innocence, physical stamina and vitality, tremendous urge for the outdoors and a tremendous appetite for fun and play.Activities have no limits.Each and everyone of us miss our childhood days.

The second stage of human life is Youth which is compared to the season of Summer. Summer is the season of fertility and immense harvest. It is marked by pleasantness,warm Summer rain and a blooming of vegetation.The fish of the waters swim adventurously in the gushing streams and rivers.The Earth itself is manifested with esteemed life.Similarly, Youth is marked by the end of Childhood innocence,beginning of self consciousness and high spirits of Romance.It is the peak and the glorious age of life.Each and everyone of us decides which path in life to take and the plans to settle with the best of everything.Beauty and attraction symbolizes the physical color of youth.

The Third stage of human life is Middle age which is compared to the season of Autumn.Autumn is characterized by beginning of dryness and slow deterioration of leaves of trees and plants.Everything around begins to fade away and begins to look shabby.The incoming chilling breeze blowing in all directions add to the gloom of nature.Similarly, Middle age is featured by a very slowly degrading physical strength,slight change in outward appearance,relaxed mood,and burdened with matured activities.By this time, all are treading towards old age.We see life differently and quite often worry about the generation,quite often our own off springs.The main feature of Middle age is Parenthood.We also learn to look back at our own lives and become very nostalgic.

The last stage is the Old Age which is compared to the season of Winter.This season is marked by extreme dryness and cold.The days are short and nights are long.Physical strength begins to fall to an all time low.Health is always a major issue.At this stage people tend to become very Spiritual and become mentally prepared for death.Winter ultimately closes the year just like old age closes the life on earth of a person to eternal rest.

Analysis 3

Different Points of View of Life

The poem “The Human Seasons” was written by John Keats at Teignmouth and enclosed it in a letter to Benjamin Bailey dated 13 March 1818. It was later included in his “Poems” published in 1819. (www.englishhistory.net)

The first two verses explain the contents of the poem and introduce the theme: he compares the four seasons of a natural year with the several stages of human life, also a natural process.

The main ideas of the poem are distributed in four steps, one for each stanza and also corresponding to each season of the year: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.

The meaning is very clearly presented, as we can experience nowadays, that life is brief, temporary and that each period in our life has different feelings and thoughts.

In the first quatrain Keats introduces the topic. The way he expresses it is in two affirmative clauses; he doesn’t use any comparative particles, but the meaning is evident. Lifetime is a natural cycle, we are born, we grow up, we reproduce ourselves and die. In the same stanza Spring is described as very short and happy. This season is the first stage of the year and it’s compared to the first period of our lives: childhood. In that time everything is beautiful and “lusty”. Keats doesn’t mention any problem in this period.

The second quatrain refers to Summer and its influence on our feelings. Summer is the best time in our lives, we are still young, but as Keats mentions, we “ruminate thoughts”, that is, we have had some experience and we are able to think about what we did in our childhood. This is the so called maturity age. These thoughts can only be fed by sweet, tender childhood memories. Through these thoughts men can be totally happy, “unto heaven”. The age line for Summer could be from the 20s to the 40s.

Autumn covers the third stanza and includes spiritual experiences. In this stage human beings are mature, their tiredness is reflected in their acts. The words used are calm and relaxing: “quiet coves”, “closed wings”, “mist in idleness”, “threshold brook”. What the poet tries to express is that we have to admit that we are getting old, we have to be satisfied of our deeds and we just let time pass by.

Only in the last two verses Winter is mentioned. Death just happens once, it is everybody’s destiny and nobody can run away from it. The mortal nature of men is described here as “pale misfeature”. There are two different ways of interpreting it, on the one hand men grows old so beauty and health get reduced, but on the other hand we can imagine that it can be the description of the deformed body after death as everybody will end the same.
Keats died when he was only 25 so we cannot describe it as the poet’s experience because he couldn’t feel like an old person but maybe these years were intense and lived as a long lifetime. Independently of this, Keats doesn’t use any kind of humorous or ironic language. The poem is very objective. It is a comparison with Nature and its development is based on “facts” that continually occur.

Based on the analysis of the structure of the poem we can appreciate which life period is more important for Keats. Apart form the introduction, each season has its own length inside the poem. The extension of each part of the year is related to the relevance of the period that corresponds to human life. Autumn is the longest one, which reinforces the meaning of waiting for death.

The imagery is very clearly exposed: Spring describes childhood, Summer maturity, Autumn, when men wait the final moment and Winter the death.

When I first read the poem I was impressed because of its objectivity, no feelings are expressed, it is factual. The poem is addressed to a man but the addressee is humanity. I also liked the structure; direct at the beginning, then more elaborate. I totally agree with the poet. The poem is like a guide of life, taking part in daily problems and focusing on spiritual sensations and feelings.

Reference Bibliography
  • Ford, B. The new Pelican Guide to English Literature.Vol. 5, From Blake to Byron. Penguin Books, Ltd. 1982, Harmondsworth.
  • Wu, D. Romanticism, An Anthology with CD-Rom. Second Edition. Blackwell Publishing. 1998, Oxford, UK
  • Bloom, H. & Trilling, L. The Oxford Anthology of English Literature. Romantic Poetry and Prose. Oxford University Press. 1973, New York.
  • Bloom, H. Romanticism and Consciousness. Essays in Criticism. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1970, New York.

No comments:

Post a Comment