Alexander Pope’s ‘The Rape Of the Lock’ and Keats’ poems ‘Ode To Psyche, Ode on Melancholy, Ode On A Grecian Urn. I will be looking into how the subject and theme of beauty is represented within each text and presented in each piece of text. Although each poet discusses beauty they both show two different perceptions and views of beauty, that are shown through their writing techniques. My essay will analyse this and explore how Pope and Keats show this in their poems.
Popes ‘The Rape of the lock’ has many references to greek mythology, the use of these greek allusions within Popes poem, seems to mock and make fun of his own characters. The characters are often surrounded by descriptions such as ‘nymphs’ ‘goddesses’. The characters of the poem concentrate on this e.g. Clarissa in the courtroom when discussing hair, she talks about how youth fades and we grow old. The Rape Of The Lock.
Alexander Pope presents female beauty in an often eccentric and vain way within his poem, the characters are obsessed with their personal appearances and their belongings. He centres most of his This is presented within the character Belinda, who is presented to be full of herself, vain. Pope often describes her with metaphors and terminology associated with goddesses/important figures, this is shown here ‘First, robed in white, nymph intent adores’ this passage describes Belinda as if she is a goddess off to battle, placing on an armour. This is used by Pope to emphasise his mockery of the character Belinda. The process of her adorning herself, ‘Puffs, powders, patches, bibles’ her beauty rituals are mocked, which entails Popes overall views of his dislike for vanity and obsession with a person’s own physical beauty. Popes ‘The Rape of the lock’ has many references to greek mythology, the use of these greek allusions within Popes poem, seems to mock and make fun of his own characters. The characters are often surrounded by descriptions such as ‘nymphs’ ‘goddesses’.
The character Clarissa, speaks on beauty and appearance and seems to be the opposing character to Belinda and criticises the society that she lives in, she seems to be a character that shows Pope’s own views. This is shown here Say why are beauties praised and honoured most’. Clarissa is used as an opposition to society, she opposes Belinda and Belindas vanity;obsession with her beauty. Clarissas character, although she seems unkind, she also seems to be a character that displays what Pope wants and perceives to be the best way of thought. Pope’s use of Clarissa allows the reader to understand the society in which humans create and the downfall of obsessing over beauty.
The society that Pope is representing and describing with his satirising, completes his mockery of beauty with the scene from court, the scene in which Belinda’s lock of hair is cut off. This scene seems to be a metaphor as it shows how trivial Beauty is and how it was treated within these times. The cutting of the hair, emphasises Pope’s view as it Pope uses the character Belinda to symbolise society’s vanity.
The cutting of Belinda’s hair, leaves Belinda incredibly upset. Pope uses a selection of different images to exaggerate Belinda’s turmoil at her hair being cut off ‘Not youthful kings in battle seized alive, / Not scornful virgins who their charms survive, / Not ardent lovers robbed of all their bliss, / Not ancient ladies when refused a kiss, / Nor tyrants fierce that unrepenting die, / Not Cynthia when her manteau pinned awry, / E’er felt such rage, resentment, and despair, / As thou, sad virgin! for thy ravished hair.” Belinda refers to herself as a soldier out of battle, this reference seems to show that Belinda’s hair being cut off outweighs a soldier going through battle. Pope uses this collection of metaphors to mock Belinda’s outcry of emotions, it shows how she believes her own looks are more worthy of attention and appreciation then any of the examples she gives in the passage above.Pope shows how Belinda refers to herself with such a high opinion, this could be an example of the society within this time and how they thought of beauty. This shows Pope’s own opinion of vanity and Beauty.
Popes use of language to mock and bring down these characters adds to his idea of transience, the ultimate emptiness that he sees in Beauty – the worthlessness that he sees in this. This idea is pushed through his character of Clarissa. Furthermore, towards the end of the poem, (Pope uses a contrasting opinion through Clarissa’s speech). Pope uses Clarissa’s speech on beauty and the emptiness of this quality, the idea that it’s a temporary part of life. This is shown here “Beauty must decay, Curled or uncurled, since locks will turn to gray’ Clarissa points out that beauty/hair will turn old and frail,we are not, not able to stop ageing, being vain and obsessing over your hair is a wasted piece of time. Pope’s view of beauty comes through this. Therefore beauty, in Pope’s opinion, is described as impermanent, transient. Instead, Clarissa suggests that women should put their focus and energies into becoming the best moral beings they can, as “Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul.” Pope’s view of vanity comes through in Clarissas’ speech. This line emphasises Popes perception of female beauty, he sees how society is so obsessed with physical beauty.
Keats writes about feminine beauty in his poems, relating most of this beauty to nature and all that surrounds it. In comparison to Pope, Keats does seem to see Beauty as such an important part of life, appreciating all that is around him. In an article in the Poetry Foundation, a friend of Keats comments about Keats’ sense of beauty, that was present in Keats from an early start, how he was able to find perceptions of beauty in nature or the animal world. Another critic Sonia Sikka writes that Keats device and interpretation of beauty as a ‘metaphysico-religious’ interpretation of beauty. This feminne beauty can be found within the poem
This theme of transient beauty is also found within Keats and his poems, he states in a letter – written to his brothers George and Tom in 1817: . This pursued through Volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.’ This idea of transience, through youth, beauty and joy is shown through Keats poems, ‘Odes of spring 1819’. Within the poem ‘Ode on Melancholy’ Keats describes beauty as ‘She dwells with Beauty – Beauty that must die; And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding Adieu’ Keats tells us how joy and beauty are two things that are melancholic, that beauty can not be with us for eternity. Keats use of femenine and the beauty within the gender is shown within his poems frequently, within this line Keats seems to describe the mortal value of Beauty within women. Keats describes this beauty as something that can bring him sadness. ‘Can burst joy’s grape against his palate fine – His soul shall taste the sadness of her might, And be among her cloudy trophies hung’ the darkening of a person’s spirit, is as easy as the clouds in the sky as they pass through or the easiness of biting into a grape and it bursting. Keats’ use of this metaphor emphasises his perception that beauty can control our emotions, that it brings him joy and happiness. This could show how without the role of beauty within the world there would be no happiness for him. Feminine beauty is found within Keats’ poem Ode To Psyche the use of these greek mythological female figures. Is used by Keats to express the power of female beauty as it shows and talks about the goddess. Oh latest born and loveliest vision far’ Keats describes her as the most beautiful sight to be seen. Keats shows beauty as a godly, mythical thing. Throughout this poem he uses images that are pure and natural such as ‘A rose sanctuary will I dress’ this beautiful imagery shown in Keats’ poem shows how Keats perceived the value of beauty and how he found beauty within his life (in every part of it).
Keats presents beauty through art. In his poem ‘Ode on a Grecian urn’, he addresses this beauty and comments on all the art found within it. The first stanza, shows the urn being addressed ‘unravished bride of quietness’ the speaker personifies the urn, as if it is a beautiful woman. The urn is undamaged and not broken, this furthers Keats own idea of beauty being undamaged.
Beauty is presented through objects and there is an image and role of the past within Keats’ poems. Sonia Sikka writes that beauty is shown also through another realm, the romanticism of the past is shown in Keats’. In ‘Ode of a grecian urn’ we are able to observe, this object as it sits in the museum and appreciate the beauty of it as Alice Oswald states that Keats ‘Keats was obsessed with stillness ..the stillness within the urn’. Keats includes this in his poem.
Keats shows within his poem that beauty is a source of trust and it has a high level of importance within us. This is shown within this line ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all Ye know on earth’ this line shows how Keats describes the beauty within art. Keats found the beauty within art and objects and this is shown throughout his poems. For Keats, as he describes in his poem, art is one of the only things that can hold beauty and life without growing old. The urn holds life and spirituality, it is a timeless object that shows truth within it. Unlike the real world where you have to see seasons changing, Keats remarks on how the urn holds the beauty of the seasons within its pictures. The urn never says goodbye to spring or happier times ‘Ah happy, happy boughs! That cannot shed You leaves, nor ever bid the spring ad, ieu’. Keats’ appreciation for the beauty in nature is shown here. He admires the beauty of this tree, relating it with happiness. Keats seems to find happiness within all things that are beautiful as shown in this line.
In conclusion, through both these sets of poems the theme of beauty is presented to us in both texts. Keats’ use of imagery shown through topics of nature and the passing of the seasons; along with objects such as the vase. In comparison to Pope and his use of the upper-class societal norms of this period to show the views and the transience of beauty. Another interesting point was the idea that Keats seemed to find a sense of reliance and truth within beauty, he trusted the value of it. In comparison to Pope who saw it as a value that was filled with vanity and distrust. Overall the romanticism of Keats and the augustan period that Pope lived through influences and shows this view that humans are obsessed with beauty and through Pope’s use of patriarchal language and keats’ use of imagery and depth they both highlight this idea of how objects never aged – Belinda’s personal belongings that were highlighted in the beginning and the never ageing, eternally spring urn that Keats writes about in his poem Ode On A Grecian Urn.