Ode To Psyche by John Keats is an important ode of Keats. Here are the summary and analysis of Ode to Psyche by John Keats. This ode is important because Keats himself said that it is the first and only one with which he has taken even moderate pains.
In English, Psyche means “Soul”. In Mythology Psyche is not presented as a goddess. However, John Keats wants to present Psyche as a goddess of supreme beauty. Keats not only wants to present Psyche as a goddess of beauty but also as a god of love. Some critics say that Psyche is Keats’ own soul or the soul of his soul as she stands for his lady love Fanny Browne.
The legend of Psyche is told in Cupid and Psyche, an allegorical episode in the tale of the Golden Ass of Puleius. Cupid (the god of love) fell in love with Psyche and visits her every night. He remains invisible to her and does not allow her to see him. Psyche sister tells her that her lover is a snake and will eat her.
One night, she takes a lamp and tries to look at Cupid in sleep, she becomes astonished by his beauty and drops hot oil on his shoulder. This makes Cupid angry and leaves Psyche in guilt. She wanders over the earth in search of her lover and finally, Venus takes pity on her and makes her a goddess and reunites her with Cupid.
John Keats in Ode To Psyche addresses the goddess Psyche. He prays to Psyche to listen to his unmusical verses. It is not his choice to sing to them but under the restriction of a sweet and dear memory of the past. He begs her to pardon him for singing the secrets for her and for her soft and shell-shaped ear. He mentions his dream of Psyche but then he says that maybe it was not a dream but a vision because he saw it with his eyes. The vision of Psyche that he saw was with the wings of a butterfly as she is represented.
John Keats in Ode to Psyche describes how and where he saw Psyche. The poet was roaming aimlessly in the forest and there he saw two lovely figures and was stunned. They were lying hidden side by side in the grass. The leaves of trees and shaking flowers seem like a roof over them. A small stream was flowing close to them but it was hard to see it through thick grass.
In Ode to Psyche, Keats then gives a description of the flowers that grew around them. These flowers had every quality and the best scent, form, stillness, coolness and colour. Some flowers had a sweet smell with a bright centre like an eye. There were flowers of blue silver white colours. There were flowers with crimson buds. Then he explains their crimson colour that looks like the crimson dye extracted from the shell-fish of the Mediterranean sea and exported from Tyre. The Tyre is a city that forms part of the Syrian Empire.
These various flowers satisfy all the five senses. The two figures surrounded by these flowers were breathing gently. Their arms and wings were intertwined with each other. (Arms of Psyche and wings of cupid) They were lying close to each other but they were not kissing. It seemed that they were about to kiss before they fell into sleep.
It seemed when it will be dawn, they will open their eyes and will start kissing. These two lovely figures were recognized by Keats. He guessed immediately that the boy-archer with Wings was Cupid (the god of love) and the lovely figure was Psyche.
Keats addresses the goddess Psyche in Ode to Psyche and says that out of all gods and goddess of ancient Greece, she is the last and the loveliest. Keats considers her the last because she was mentioned as a goddess by Apuleius in the middle of the second century A.D and the other Greek Deities were known long before her. The memory of Greek deities faded because they are no longer in men’s memories, they have become the past.
Keats considers Psyche the loveliest of all Greek goddesses. She is lovelier than the moon-goddess Phoebe who shines brightly and beautifully in the clear blue sky. She is lovelier than the evening star Vesper. Psyche is more beautiful than these Greek goddess although she is not honoured and adored by people of this world.
There is no temple where she is worshipped. There is no altar that is made for her or that is decorated with flowers to offer sacrifices for her. She is not attended by a band of virgins who sings sweet songs as they sing for Phobe. She has no temple or oracle like that of Delphi where the priest with excitement proclaims a divine message. In these lines, Keats recalls John Milton’s Nativity Ode’s sixth stanza.
Keats addresses Psyche in Ode to Psyche as the loveliest goddess. Keats says that when Psyche got a place among the Greek gods and goddesses it was very late. people have chosen their deities for the purpose of worship. When Psyche was recognized as a deity, people who have already chosen their deities started the praises of their gods. At that time, the worship of nature was in fashion. the objects of nature were holy for people and all-natural objects had their deities.
Keats says that there is a gradual change in people attitude towards gods. People do not believe in the pious and holy actions of gods as they used to do in the past. People have become materialistic and worshipers of the new god of gold. But the poet is not like them and his faith is persistent.
He is able to see Psyche’s shining wings flapping on Mount Olympus among the Greek gods and goddess. People of the world have forgotten Olympus, Keats is able to see Psyche among other deities. He requests the goddess to let him become her voice and he should be allowed to proclaim her divine message.
Keats does not like the way Psyche is neglected by people and he says that if people are unable to see her worth, he will amend that. He will become Psyche priest and proclaim her divine message. He will build a temple for her. Keats develop a metaphor of temple but this temple will not be in a known place but it will be in an explored region of his mind. He thinks his mind is like a forest.
The way the forest is full of beautiful trees and flowers, his mind is full of lofty idea. Pine trees in the forest produce a rustling sound in the wind, his thoughts whisper softly to him. The dark mass of pine trees spread to a very great distance and surrounded by rocks and mountains, his thoughts are enveloped by the vast experience of his life.
In his peaceful forest of the mind, the poet will build a temple of poetry adorned with roses which are his verses. He compares the lattice-work of wood with his poetry. The work of wood is decorated by nameless buds and flowers of the shapes of bells and stars so will the temple of poetry in this min with verses and poems. Keats hopes that he will write new poems as he is inspired by Psyche and he will dedicate his temple of poetry to Psyche.
The temple will be full of all the pleasures and delights. and he will use all kinds of poetic images to lease the goddess. A bright torch will be in the temple to make it bright and windows will be left open for Psyche to let in. Psyche is represented with a butterfly’s wings and is often called the moth-goddess. The moth is attracted by light and the lighted torch will attract and admit the moth-goddesses to the Temple of Poetry.
The Ode to Psyche by John Keats is the lovely decorative mythology and indeed one of the beautiful odes of Keats.
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