It is finally time to look at a poem by our poet of the week, John Keats. We will take a sneak peak into Keats’s detailed and structured imagination and words in, ‘Ode to Psyche.’
Before we begin, let us try to figure out who Psyche is:
Greek Mythology has it that Psyche was the goddess of behavior. Aphrodite was of course jealous of Psyche’s beauty and decided to send her son Eros, shoot an arrow at her that would make her fall in love with an ugly, unsuitable man for her rank. Yet, like many Greek Mythology there is a turning point, Eros falls in love with Psyche. As for the rest of the story, I will let you look deeper into it and its meaning...
For the meantime we understand that Keats’s intention was to praise Psyche in his poem.
Take a few moments to read the poem and before looking at my understanding about it, write what you think it means. After you have written a list of everything that you thought, you can can check to see if we had similar ideas, after all a poem never has a ‘correct’ answer; it is only how you perceive it to be.
So put on your thinking hats and let us get started into the world of John Keats.
In the first line of the poem, Keats starts his readers off by
this shows us who he is writing about and discreetly describes who Psyche is, without directly stating it.
In the first stanza he questions himself if it was Psyche he saw,
‘Surely I drem’d to-day, or did I see
The wingèd Psyche with awaken'd eyes?’
A question whether his vision was a dream or reality strikes us all. He continues his adventure in a forest coming upon,
‘Two fair creature, couchèd side by side.’
Suddenly, nature imagery clearly creates an intense picture of what the speaker sees. The beauty of nature is associated to love:
‘They lay calm-breathing on the bedded grass;
Their arms embracèd, and their pinions too;
Their lips touch'd not, but had not bade adieu,
As if disjoinèd by soft-handed slumber,
And ready still past kisses to outnumber
At tender eye-dawn of aurorean love.’
Through this apparition, we connect Psyche to beauty that was created through love and nature.
We then come upon color imagery, which will intensify what we see:
‘Blue, silver-white, and budded Tyrian.’
We come across the second question that we are hoping to find out:
‘But who wast thou, O happy, happy dove?
His Psyche true!’
We, along with the narrator wonder if it was Psyche who he saw amongst the two creatures; leaving that question behind our aching heads we continue craving for more words.
John Keats allows the protagonist of the poem to continue to go deeper in his dreamy world, his readers soon fall through:
Too, too late for the fond believing lyre,’
‘When holy were the haunted forest boughs,
Holy the air, the water, and the fire;’
When we think of holy we think of divine, this could be what he considers Psyche to be. Repetition in a poem, clarifies an important value to the word. As the narrator begins to feel uplifted and happier of his encounter he begins to sing,
‘I see, and sing, by my own eyes inspired.’
Again, holy aspects are envisioned from his eyes,
‘Thy shrine, thy grove, thy oracle, thy heat
Of pale-mouth'd prophet dreaming.
Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane’
We experience more nature imagery as we go deeper into the forest and his imagination.
‘To let the warm Love in!’
Reading this we go back and relate Psyche once again as a love symbol throughout his imaginative thoughts. Notice that in the poem there is the mention of Psyche only twice, yet her name could have been merely replaced by ‘Love,’ considering it has been placed with a capital ‘L’ in the last line.
All of these ideas were something to think about, yet I am also interested to hear what you thought about ‘Ode to Psyche’ and what the narrator’s vivid and exciting words meant to you…