The Ode to Psyche by John Keats is the very first of a series of Romantic odes written in 1819 in action to personal, political, and social events of the time. Psyche, however, diverges from the typical qualities of his other odes because in representing the standard Romantic questions into topics such as the nature of truth, or the conceptions of the Artist in a purchased kind with specific subjects and styles because its structure is haphazard and is composed with more liberty therefore can be termed speculative in style with a differing rhyme scheme and meter.
It is mainly an effort by Keats to restore Psyche, a goddess and the subject of the Poem, to her splendor.
The Poem can then be organized into two actions. In restoring Psyche to splendor, she can exist additionally in a different dimension or she can be part of an architectural reconstruction born of his imagination or “elegant.” If it is translated as the latter, then the Poem also ends up being a medium in which Keats explores his classical inclinations, essentially that of informing the story of Mind and Eros and generating thematic components such as the leviathan power of love.
However if the latter reaction is believed to be true, as the review Harold Bloom believes, then the poem barely explores this story and ends up being an expedition of the more Romantic suitables of the imagination, nature, and the artist. In this analysis, each action will be spoken about separately.
The previous will consist of a further inquiry into the Classical tale and the nature of the characterizations of both Psyche and Eros and the possibility of Mind being a Muse.
The latter will take into account features such as architectural mirroring, the creativity as a type of artistry and its connection with Keats’ famed unfavorable capability, and the possibility of this poem being an extension of “The Vale of Soul making” and the resulting implications.
Keats immediately begins the poem by exploring the identity of the goddess that needs glorification. He does this through the use of the setting. Synesthaesia is initially used to focus the reader’s attention on the “two fair creatures” in the middle of the forest clearing. This focus is created because the assimilation of senses that the use of synesthaesia implies shows the extent of the rhapsodizing the the observer does, the narrator and also the readers, of these creatures. In exploring this identity further, it is notable that Keats does not immediately recognize Psyche by her true identity but can only recognize her as the partner of “The winged boy” or Eros at the end of stanza.
Upon recognizing her, there is no doubt that Keats wishes to signify that, in both interpretations, that Psyche was no mere mortal, but a Goddess and deserves to be given the respect that this position insinuates. The Ode itself starts with the use of a synecdoche “O Goddess!” that emphasizes the divine qualities of Psyche. She is also referred to as being part of “Olympus’s faded hierarchy”, Olympus alluding to the abode of the King of Gods, Zeus. And in signifying the extent to which she differs from mortals, it is logical that Keats would express her divinity in physical terms. Yet, Keats does not want to acknowledge that this divinity only exists, but wants to emphasize the sheer extent of this divinity.
He does this by using visual imagery that demonstrates Pysche’s remarkable physical attributes. She is the “latest born and loveliest vision”, fairer than “Phoebe” and “Vesper,” the goddesses of the moon and Venus. This then becomes a subtle means of causing the reader to question the lack of Psyche’s glorification. In espousing this questioning, Keats attempts to persuade readers that a celebration is needed if Psyche is really as divine as described.
If this celebration is needed, Keats then describes, again using visual and aural imagery, the extent of how what is needed has been ignored. “There is no virgin choir, no voice, no lute, no oracle, etc. Displaying this procession in list form, with an anaphora in the middle (Nor altar…nor virgin. choir), Keats describes the extent of his frustration at this absence. There even might be signs of anger and a deep fanaticism that he feels the goddess deserves.
This may be the reason why he describes the “prophet” as “pale-mouthed.” This would similar to images of a person being red-faced after an argument which simply goes on to symbolize the extent of the devotion that Keats feels is necessary. His anger could however be also directed at the discontinuation of Pagan practices. The phrases “Holy the air, the water, and the fire” refer to the ancient Pagan worshipping of the 4 elements as extensions of God-like qualities. It is also this discontinuation, coupled with the lack of glorification of Psyche that adds to his anger.
The question now becomes how Keats can correct the wrongs born of this ignorance. He suggests a traditionally Romantic solution, that of using the imagination. “With all the gardener Fancy e’er feign”, he will dress the “trellis of a working brain” of stars without a name.” Because these stars are unnamed, Keats either to produce stars more grand than any produced so far in order to make up for the lost time of glorification.