Fall 2011 • Vol. XXXIII No. 4 A Symposium on John Keats |

The Odes for Their Own Sake

Between the end of April and the beginning of June 1819, John Keats wrote the spring odes that ultimately made his name and fame: and they include, in the common order, "Ode to Psyche," "Ode to a Nightingale," "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "Ode on Melancholy," and "Ode on Indolence." Then, on Sunday, September 19, in the college town of Winchester, he added "To Autumn," perhaps the purest poem in the language. The compositional order of the spring odes varies according to the authority. Helen Vendler proposes one order, John Bernard another, Jackson Bate another, Susan Wolfson another, and so on. The order of the odes is well off the point of my concern here. The nature of their individual and collective importance is. That the odes represent the future rather than the past of English-speaking poetry is, I believe, beyond question. And that they advance the groundbreaking work of Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" and Coleridge's conversation poems is also, I believe, certain. The odes elev

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Stanley Plumly’s most recent book of poems is Orphan Hours (W.W. Norton, 2012). His collection Old Heart won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Paterson Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award. In 2015, his book of prose The Immortal Evening won the Truman Capote Prize for Literary Criticism. Plumly is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland. In 2010 he was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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