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theme of indolence explored in 'ode on indolence'

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Introduction

INDOLENCE Question: How is the theme of indolence explored in the poem 'ode on indolence'? 'Ode on indolence' is the praise of indolence/sluggishness; it makes the claim of the attractions of lethargy being more alluring than the attractions of the more active emotions of love, ambition and poetry. It is the admiration of the state of non-doing and non-feeling. The ode is a simple, straight forward story of a man who spends a lazy summer day in a state of numbness and does not want his visions of love, ambition and poesy to disrupt his indolence. These three figures are strikingly contrasted to the condition of indolence. The poetic persona could be Keats himself. The ode begins with the poetic persona seeing 'three figures' one summer morning passing him by in a dream/vision, as if on a 'marble urn' they returned with each turn of the vase. ...read more.

Middle

The narrator begs the 'shadows' to leave him to his much longed-for 'nothingness'. The term used- 'shadows' insinuates the visions are dark and ominous. The third verse is commenced with yet another question addressing the reason for the figures appearance. His confusion is echoed in the word 'baffled'. His soul is compared to a beautiful 'lawn' strewn with 'flowers', 'stirring shades' and 'baffled beams'; the sky was 'clouded' but there was no rain, only dew drops called the 'sweet tears of May'. This pristine image of the narrator's soul is brought on by the state of inactivity, thus we are made to believe that this state of being is desirable or covetable. He wants to 'bid farewell' to the three shadows. The fourth verse shows the third turn of the urn and brings forth the realisation of the there figures- the 'fair maid' 'love', 'ambition' 'pale of cheek' with 'fatigued eye' and the 'maiden most unmeek' 'poesy'. ...read more.

Conclusion

From other poems- 'ode to a nightingale' or 'ode on a Grecian urn'- we know that Keats has trouble with mortality and impermanence. And as for poesy, 'it has not a joy' compared to 'honied indolence'- the narrator would rather be devoid of 'common-sense' and spend his 'drowsy noons' numb and listless completely ignorant to the world around him ['I may never know how change the moons']. The concluding stanza says 'adieu' to the three and marks their defeat in rousing the narrator from his laziness. He commands the 'phantoms' to 'vanish' and 'never more return'. He banishes them back to the 'dreamy urn' and reduces them to 'faint visions'. But taking into account that the state of indolence as compared to the three visions is hardly mentioned, it is not very convincing that the poetic persona prefers indolence over his other temptations [especially after reading some of his other poems]. It does however come across that he is trying to deny his passions even to himself. No. of words: 757 ...read more.

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