Endymion: by John Keats - A Poetic Romance

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      Endymion is Keats’s first long poem—a poem which aroused such bitter and savage criticism in the Blackwood and Quarterly Magazines. This poem is a long story—the story of Endymion, who fell in love with the moon. This story, lengthened out in this poem, has an allegorical meaning. The theme of this long poem is the poet’s quest (search) for Ideal Beauty. The moon may be said to symbolize ideal beauty, Endymion to stands for the human soul in search of this ideal beauty.

      Endymion expresses the poet’s longing for full communion with the essential spirit of Beauty. Endymion attains his object through human love. The moon—Endymion’s beloved—appears in three forms—as Cynthia (the ideal of sensuous beauty, the Indian Maiden (representative of the realities of the earth) and the moon (symbolic of the “Mystery” of the world). These three are one. The idea is that there is a unity between Nature, Humanity and the Higher Spiritual Essence—that all these three are one. Further, the idea is that the secret of the universe can be known through the gradations of sensuous and human reality. The poet not only reaches an understanding the ideal through deep and thorough intimacy, first, with the physical beauty of the world, then with the depths of human passion on suffering, but must find in the end that all merge into one. This is how the famous poet Bridges interprets this poem: “The Moon represents “poetry” or Ideality of desired objects, The Principles of Beauty all things. It is the super-sensuous quality which makes all desired objects ideal: and Cynthia, as moon goddess, crowns and personifies and this represents the ideal beauty or love of woman: and in so fas as she is also actually the Moon as well as the Indian Lady,—who clearly represents real or sensuous passion—if follows that the love of woman is in its essence the same with all love of beauty”.

      The main charm of this poem however, does not lie in the hidden meaning that it tries to convey. Nor does it lie in its story, which is involved, and which, in any case, lies buried under the richness of description. Its chief beauty lies precisely in these beautiful description which show such a deep love of Nature.

      Endymion, apart from its beautiful passages, has also many passages full of sentimentalism. Keats is not yet able to out-grow the influence of Leigh Hunt. These passages gave the critics an occasion to criticize Keats so savagely.

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