In one poem he expresses his longing for poetry of “sensations” rather than “thoughts,” yet in a letter he admires Wordsworth’s ability to “explore those dark passages” of “mystery” philosophically. Because of the obvious contradiction, it is apparent that his philosophical assessment of poetry was not fixed. Keats refined his poetic philosophy in maturity. To accommodate his growing interest in philosophy and self-identity. In short, his attitude to towards philosophy was an every changing one. Just as the need for mutability becomes an essential part of Keats’s eventual belief in purposeful growth, as does his attitude towards philosophy.
Keats view on love is very much like his attitude towards philosophy in its ambivalence and it is this uncertainty that is often the subject of many of his poems. Keats frequently uses an encounter with a female figure to represent visionary experience, however, his deepest anxieties are also revealed through his conflict with power signified by the female form. The way in which Keats chooses to describe the female figures in his poetry would suggest both attraction and apprehension, he uses words such as ‘enthrall’ and ‘ensnare. ‘ Often Keats’s imagination focuses on erotic encounters with a sensuous goddess or nymph.
However, in the ‘The Fall of Hyperion’ the goddess becomes a desexualised and cruel creature. This confuses us ‘the reader’ as to what view Keats’s has about love, is it then love or just simply physical attraction. It may be argued that Keats’s is simple putting forward the typical chauvinistic view of the time after all Keats’s is quoted to have said that he did not want ladies to read his poetry, he wrote for men. Love plays a variety of different roles in Keats’s poetry, for example in ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci,’ love is seen as harmful.
The story, a seductive tale where treacherous women who tempt men away from the real world and then leave them, their dreams unfulfilled and their lives blighted. Alternative interpretations have suggested that it is about the wasting power of sexual love. In most interpretations, love is seen as destructive, so, is this Keats’s view? His latter poems would suggest so. This view is reinforced in his poem, ‘On sitting down to Read King Lear once again,’ he describes the ‘fair plumed Syren. ‘ Whilst Keats finds her attractive and seductive, he also recognises her dangers and limitations.
Here romance and love has been feminised, which would suggest that it is women that he fears rather than love itself. In his poem, ‘On sitting down to Read King Lear once again,’ Keats seems to be turning way from romance and love; favouring tragedy, despite having written ‘Endymion’ a poetic romance, only a year earlier. Therefore, one could argue that Keats felt that the only way to further his career and be known for his art was to write about tragedy and the ‘miseries of the world,’ which include the possible harm and destruction that can come from love.
However, this was not necessarily his attitude towards love. The ambivalence of his attitude towards love, is demonstrated in his poem ‘Lamia. ‘ One could argue that the dynamics of this poem symbolizes Keats general view of love. The story begins with love and ends with tragedy possibly signifying Keats’ journey of exploration of love. The poem begins by describing the excitement of love, ‘the words she spake came, as through bubbling honey,’ suggesting the exhilaration and power that love can provide.
However, this love transforms into fatal love causing pain, ‘pale with pain, the cruel lady. ‘ The ‘lady’ who caused excitement and thrill at the beginning of the poem is now seen as cruel and seductive, ‘and as he from one trance was wakening into another, she begin to sing. ‘ Here the nature of love is constantly changing, possibly in tune with the meaning of love Keats chooses to hold. Keats attitude to both love and philosophy are ambivalent. Love in particular is open to the reader’s own interpretation and understanding of the poems.
One could argue that Keats remains sceptical about love but never rules it out all together. However, it may also be argued that Keats becomes an ‘anti-romantic’ and has a very negative attitude towards love. Keats’s poetic philosophy contains many contradictions and ambiguities just as his view on love. It is apparent from reading his poetry that both his philosophical assessment of poetry and attitude towards love were constantly undergoing change, so it is impossible to generalise his constantly changing to attitude into simple terms.