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Keats As An Escapist

Romanticism was a reaction against rationality and scientific approach of the Age of
Reason. Political occurrence, social unrest, mental disturbances, moral insecurity, religious
confusions and philosophical ideologies of the day, all added to the element of escapism in
writers’ thought, personalities and ultimately their works.
Escapism can be defined as ​the tendency to escape from daily reality or routine by
indulging in day dreaming, fantasies or entertainment. It is an inclination or habit of
retreating from unpleasant reality, as through diversion or fantasy (Oxford Dictionary).
Escapism can be called as a movement in itself. All romantic writing, we can see, is more or
less escapist in nature. Escapism can be said as one of the main feature of all romantic writing.
Like all romantic poets, Keats, longs to escape from the bitter realities. But a careful
study of his poetry reveals that his escapism is only a passing mood. Some critics declare
Keats as a romantic escapist. In “ ode to a nightingale” Keats fully expounds upon romantic
escapism. He is pouring out his thoughts very beautifully and is longing for escape from the
world full of strife, sadness and grief. As he says,
“ ​Fade far away, dissolve and quiet forget
The weariness the fever and the fret”
In these lines Keats demands escapism from the sorrows and tensions of life. By his
power of imagination, he decides to fly with the nightingale through the help of poetry because it
is the only weapon provided to him. As he says,
“​Away! Away! For I will fly thee
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards
But on the viewless wings of poesy”
Escapism of Keats is also clearly depicted in these lines,
“ Leave the world unseen, and with thee
fade away in the forest of dim”
In another ode “ ode on a Grecian Urn”, Keats deals with some escapist ideals. As he
expounds in his own mind upon the love affair depicted upon the Grecian Urn, he laments,
“​Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter, therefore, ye soft pipes play on.”
In other words, the world he imagines is always better than the one he is actually living
in. Keats is of the view that constant sorrows lead to escapism. He is conscious that real great
poetry arises from the experiences of hard reality. As he says,
“None can usurp the height, but those
Whom the miseries of the world
Are misery, and will not let them rest.”
Besides all this, ​“ A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” ​this is the life long creed of
Keats. There is never a more ardent lover of beauty than Keats. But does his love and pursuit
of beauty make him to ignore the reality of life? In one of his early poems ​Sleep and Poetry.
He says,
“The realm of Flora and Pan
Can i ever bid these joys, farewell?
Yes I must bid these joys, farewell”.
These lines show that the Keats has potential and ability to face the bitter realities of life.
Keats is born at a time when the whole of Europe is shaken by the ideas of revolution, but in his
poetry these ideas never find expression. According to Stopeford Brooke,
“Keats is so preoccupied with beauty that he turned a blind eye to the actualities
of life around him.”
It is true that his poetry does not express the revolutionary ideas of his times, as
Shelley’s poetry does. Every artist has his own bent of genius. He has his own vision of life
and expresses it in his own way​. ​Wordsworth has a spiritual vision, Shelly has an idealistic
vision and Keats has an artistic vision of beauty. As he believes in ​beauty is truth, truth
beauty​. As Courthope says,
“If his aim is to pursue beauty, which is also truth, he cannot be an escapist, for in
pursuing beauty, he pursues truth”.
Some critics regard him as a realist because he also has courage to face the cruelties of
life. Unlike Shelley, he comes back to the world’s reality to face its pitilessness and malice. He
is aware of the fact that he cannot blind himself from his utter reality and its connection with
world is unbreakable as he says in these lines,
“Forlorn! The very world is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole-self
Adieu! The fancy can’t cheat, so well
As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.”
In the tenacity of the above argument we can call Keats as an escapist because he
escapes just for an excursion and it is always a passing mood. The controversy regarding
aloofness from life has arisen only because he is a pure, a devoted worshipper. In his timely
escapes his feet always touch the ground and he lets a casement open to come back. He
doesn't escape from life, as is sometimes supposed to be, but he escapes into life..

1. Jakson, Walter, ​A Collection Of Critical Essays​, Englewood Cliff, New Jersey.

2. C.K. Hillegass, ​Keats and Shelley​, Cliffs Notes.
3. Jack Stillinger, ​Keats Odes​, United States America.
6. http:///
Keats As An Escapist

Prepared by:
Afifa Noor
Isra Ghafoor

Presented to:

Mrs Sasha Asif