Not until the end of his career as a poet, albeit a mere couple years, does Keats write perhaps his most illuminating lines, clearly communicating the end to which he aspires as a writer: The poet and the dreamer are distinct / Diverse, sheer opposite, antipodes / And that the height of poetry can be reached only by / Those to whom the miseries of the world / Are misery, and will not let them rest' (RP 880). It is to this height of poetry that Keats aspires; yet, lying in direct conflict with himself throughout the course of his writing, never obtains either as a poet or a dreamer. Naturally, we ask what this height' of poetry is to which Keats refers. To begin with, the purpose of poetry is found in its ability to penetrate the hardened exteriors of our souls.
[...] Again, as the imagination or dream state cannot resolve his pain, the poet curses it for ever having brought him out of reality into a false world: silent form, dost tease us out of thought / As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral' (lines 44-45). Upon this despairing disappointment, he curses the urn for causing him to step out of reality, and then falling back into it, for bringing him all the pain once again of which he is so familiar with. [...]
[...] Within Keats' poetry, we sense a desiring to become the dreamer figure of which he expounds, escaping from our pain into the imagination; yet this, lying in direct opposition to the sympathetic, sorrowful authenticity the poet figure strives to present, prevents the reader from ever obtaining the height of poetry: an absolute unburdening from the reality of the pain, evident in the conscious awareness of living. Upon reading Keats poetry, we clearly see this duality: the aspirations of the imagination versus the poem's exertion of its painful, conscious awareness; the dreamer versus the relentless, empathetic labor of the poet figure. [...]
[...] The poet claims that the urn subsists merely to trick others into their imaginations or dream states, only to return once again to a reality of perpetual pains: ‘When old age shall this generation waste / Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe' (46-47). The poet and the reader, it appears, are eternally bound to dwell in a pit of mutually empathy and of painful despondency. In addition, returning to examine Keats' ‘Sonnet to Sleep', we witness this insistent empathy, eternalized through the image presented in the very last line of the poem: seal the hushed casket of my soul' (14). [...]
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