Ode to Fancy: by John Keats - Summary & Analysis

Also Read


      Ode to Fancy is dated 1818 in some copies, but was not printed till 1820 The meter and the general tone of the poem show traces of Milton’s poem L'Allegro and II Penseroso, The word 'fancy' has been used here in practically the same sense as imagination.


      Give a free vent to Fancy because real pleasure is of the imaginary world. Pleasures are soft-lived and disappear like the bubbles of rain.

      Give a free scope to Fancy because the joys of summer, spring, and autumn reach the point of satiety very soon. Sit therefore by the fireside on a winter night and give vent to Imagination.

      Fancy would bring in beauties which cannot be found on the earth. She will give us nothing at one end and the same time the delight of summer, spring, and autumn—the song of the harvesters mixed with the song of birds and the smell of flowers of different seasons at one glance. The field’s mouse and the snake will come out-of their holes while at the same time the birds will lay eggs, bees, swarm, and ripe a corn field.

      Let loose Fancy, for the human pleasures are transitory. Everything pleasurable grows dull after a time. The most beautiful cheek, the sweetest lip, the prettiest face and the most musical voice lose their charm after a time. Therefore let Fancy find for us an ideal beloved as beautiful as Proserpine and as graceful as Hebe. Let Fancy fly away from the cage of the mind and wander at will.

Critical Analysis

      Ode to Fancy, one of the lighter poems of Keats, has something of the Elizabethan manner about it, particularly in its four accent meter, which is reminiscent of Fletcher and Ben Jonson. Though it is an original composition, its descriptions and cadence seem to recall L'Allegro of Milton.

      Fancy is a catalog of “luxuries,” but how inferior these are to those we have in I Stood Top-toe. And though Keats has acquired a far greater firmness of presentation, we do not have the freshness of delight we have in I Stood Tip-toe for he presents to us the delights of each season, not with the effervescence of wonder, but with the keen eye of a careful observer. In the world of imagination into which he strays, the three flowering seasons seem to exist almost simultaneously; or rather, whatever is attractive in each is isolated and included.

      The simple descriptions of Nature, so reminiscent of L,Allegro, are delightful and charming; particularly, so is the description of the field mouse, “meagre from its celled sleep”. In the latter part of the poem, we have sensuous passage which while describing how grew languid when Hebe’s kirtle fell to her feat, recalls the Miltonicmanner, and the eight syllabled line is introduced with telling effect.

      Fancy it has been already pointed out, is done in a lighter vein; yet it bears a certain relation to Keats’s thought in the Odes, particularly to the thought in the Ode To a Nightingale. In the latter the tragedy of life impels him to seek escape from the world of reality into an ideal world of beauty. In Fancy, when he discovers that real thing even those that are the most beautiful-pall upon him, he extols Fancy, for fancy can escape from reality and is not tied down to any particular place or to reason in its search for new joys. This, however, is only a passing mood with Keats, as is indicated by the extempore, nature of the poem


      Nowhere in Keats is the influence of Milton’s L’Allegro and II Penserow which is evident in this poem. Keats seems to have caught the very ‘native woodnotes wild’ which Milton gives us in his poems. The same rich profusion of imagery which Milton had is also found here. Elton observes: “The four poems Fancy, Bards of Passion and of Mirth, Lines on the Mermaid Tavern and Robin Hood: printed in the volume of 1820, should be real in the letters in which they were first sent; they are less considered works of skill.”

Previous Post Next Post