John Keats as an Escapist | Romantic Poetry is Poetry of Escapism

Escapism is the most important ingredients of romantic poetry. John Keats is called the most romantic poet of his era because he is the most escapist of them all. He was born in an era when everyone was talking about revolutionary ideas. It was the only subject matter to write on but Keats kept himself away from it. He is a pure poet. Poetry of Keats has no morality. He writes poems that directly hit the senses. His poems are entirely based on imagination. Poetry for the sake of poetry is his agenda. Every ode of John Keats is evident that he is an escapist. He always finds a way of creating fancy world so that he may forget worries of his life.

Poetry of Escapism:

Poetry of escapism is associated to John Keats. If a poet writes romantic poetry than he definitely is an escapist. This kind of poetry deals with imagination. John Keats finds this world brutal, therefore, he wants to go far away from it. Even he is ready to accept death as witnessed in “Ode to Nightingale”. Sufficiently, poetry of escapism is the name of fleeing from real world and living in the world of imagination.

John Keats is the Most Escapist among Romantic Poets:

John Keats has a good power of imagination. He does not find any difficulty in its creation. In that world he quests for beauty. Several reasons are there due to which he prefers ideal world to to world of reality. He does so because he

  • quests for Beauty.
  • wants to forget pains and sorrows.
  • finds peace and harmony in imagination.
  • loves past.

Quest for Beauty:

John Keats loves beauty. For him, “A thing of beauty is joy forever”. In pursuance of it, he creates a fancy world. His vision helps him in this regard. “Ode to Nightingale” is an example of it, wherein he creates a perfect imaginary world. This ode is a dream but it pleases the senses aesthetically. It should be remembered that romantic poets do not seek for a perfect world; instead they create it with the help of their imagination.

John Keats does not only find beauty in nature but also in art. “Ode to Grecian Earn” can be referred in this context. He says that art is beautiful and everlasting In this ode too, he escapes to fancy world and quests for beauty.

Sometimes he finds beauty in art, sometimes in song of nightingale and somewhere he appreciates nature. He can find beauty in each and everything even in truth. In “Ode to Grecian Urn”, he writes:

Beauty is truthtruth beauty, —that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know” 

Hence, pursuance of beauty forces John Keats to be an escapist.

Sorrows and Sufferings Make John Keats an Escapist:

Sorrows and sufferings are there in everyone’s life and so as in the life of John Keats. It is difficult to face them. However escapism is possible. John Keats’s life was full of sorrows. He did not like the cruel world. Escapism was the only option for him. He was too sensitive. It is, therefore, in most of his poems, his mood is gloomy. “Hyperion” is full of sorrows and sufferings. Similarly, In “Ode to Autumn” he creates a gloomy atmosphere. He also compares melancholy with joy and concludes that

Melancholy dwells with beauty, "beauty that must die," 

Similarly, in “Ode to Nightingale”, he wants to “fade far away” and “quite forget” the “weariness, the fever, and the fret”.

Suffice is to say that miseries, sorrows and pains also forces John Keats to be an escapist . Middleton Murry rightly adjudged the nature of John Keats. He said:-

“They (lines from Grecian Urn) contain deep wisdom purchased at the full price of deep suffering. The Ode on a Grecian Urn is not a dream of unutterable beauty nor is the urn itself the song of an impossible bliss beyond mortality. It has a precious message to mankind, not as a thing of beauty which gives exquisite delight to the senses, but as a symbol and prophecy of a comprehension of human life which mankind can attain.”

Middleton Murry on John Keats as an escapist.

Keats’ Love for Greeks:

In every ode of John Keats there is a reference to ancient Greeks. His Hellenism is much famous. Shelley considers John Keats a Greek poet. It is because he takes interest in Greek objects. He loves Greek sculptures. He also takes interest in Greek myths. When Homer’s work translation was given to him, he experienced Greeks’ intellect. Poems of John Keats depict either Greek or Medieval themes. Love for Greeks art seeks his attention. Physically he can’t travel in the past. However, ideal world (imaginative world) is an option for him. Thus, love for past also compels him to be an escapist.

It is essential for poetry of escapism to present the world of dreams instead of world of reality. We know that world of romance is the subject matter of romantic poetry and it totally depends on dreams and imagination. Escapism means to flee from real world and to live a life in dreams. In other words, escapism means spending most of the time in imagination. John Keats does so. He spends most of his time either with birds in forests or in the past not physically but conceptually.

John Keats is a romantic poet and also an escapist. His odes are evident that he has not ability to face hardships, therefore, he seeks escapism. He is not satisfied from his life. He thinks that far far away from this life, there must be peaceful world. Romantic poets can create world of perfection but it can only be created through high imaginative powers. John Keats has this ability. He has a good imagination. John Keats is regarded as the most romantic poet of his era because he is the most escapist.