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Keats's nausea.

Perhaps I eat to persuade myself I am somebody. (1)

--John Keats

Now no comfort avails any more; longing transcends a world after death, even the gods; existence is negated along with its glittering reflection in the gods, or in any immortal beyond. Conscious of the truth he has once seen, man now sees everywhere only the horror or absurdity of existence; ... he is nauseated. (2)

--Friedrich Nietzsche

KEATS IS KNOWN TO HAVE AS PERPLEXED A RELATION TO THE SENSORY--particularly the savory--as any poet. Elizabeth Bishop remarks in a letter to Robert Lowell that "Except for his unpleasant insistence on the palate, he strikes me as almost everything a poet should have been in his day." (3) The view was shared by many of his nineteenth-century contemporaries, including Carlyle, for whom Keats was "a miserable creature, hungering after sweets which he can't get, going about saying, `I am so hungry; I should so like something pleasant!'" (4) Yeats immortalized him as a school-boy with his face and nose pressed to a sweet-shop window. (5) And critics since Lionel Trilling have read him as "possibly unique among poets in the extensiveness of his reference to eating and drinking and to its pleasurable or distasteful sensations." (6) Whether we believe, with Helen Vendler, that this preoccupation with gustatory taste represents a healthy relation to a world of vigorously taken pleasure, or, with Marjorie Levinson, that it signals a dysfunctional aesthetic attitude, the physical metaphor of taste informs both his poetry and poetic theory. (7) Keats's chameleon-poet famously "lives in gusto," a term derived from gustus (taste) and characterized by Hazlitt as an effect whereby the eye acquires "a taste or appetite for what it sees." (8) The "poetical character" is defined by its ability to "taste" and "relish" the world it perceives: "its relish of the dark side of things ... its taste for the bright one" (Letters 1: 387). And Keats himself, on December 31, 1818, the eve of his so-called annus mirabilis, declared that he had "not one opinion upon any thing except in matters of taste" (Letters 2: 19). (9) While it would be unwise to assume that Keats really did renounce everything but "matters of taste," we continue to grapple with this particular aspect of his own self-fashioning.

As Keats's own experience never let him forget, it is the body that "tastes," or experiences pleasure metaphorically through taste, and in Keats's case, that body was a consumptive body--one that wasted away, consuming itself, as it literally starved to death. In the tragic account of his last days left by Joseph Severn, Keats constantly raved that he would die from hunger as his stomach, rather than nourishing the rest of his body, became instead its devourer: "his Stomach--not a single thing will digest--the torture he suffers all and every night--and the best part of the day--is dreadful in the extreme--the distended stomach keeps him in perpetual hunger or craving." (10) By the end of his life, he had suffered (in Severn's words) "a ghastly wasting-away of his body and extremities" (qtd. in KC 1: 202). The problem for a poet devoted to acts of self-definition through "matters of taste" is that to be hungry, to be physically driven by appetite, cancels all pretensions to taste. As Kant states concisely in his third critique: "Hunger is the best sauce; and people with a healthy appetite relish everything, so long as it is something they can eat. Such delight, consequently, gives no indication of taste having anything to say to the choice. Only when men have got all they want can we tell who among the crowd has taste or not." (11) Whereas the legendary figure of the chameleon feeds upon air (as Keats knew from reading Hamlet), Keats recognized that he himself could not be sustained on the transcendental food of airy infinity.

This essay will show how Keats's frustrated effort to exist in the ethereal world of aesthetic taste thrust him (and the idealism implicit in romantic poetics) into the modernist condition of nausea. To see how taste gets remade by Keats as a modernist aesthetic, particularly in the Hyperion poems, it will first be necessary to examine how he develops an understanding of the aesthetic process as an "allegory of taste" based on Milton. The second section of the essay will turn to "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" as Keats's "ballad on taste"--and the place where his allegory begins to founder upon an all-too-real hunger. Finally, I propose to show how this blocked or interrupted allegory of taste figures into the Hyperion poems. After his effort to "taste" and "relish" the world like a true "poetical character" sickens the eponymous hero of Hyperion, the human speaker of The Fall of Hyperion must struggle hard to escape the nausea: an ontopoetic condition of unpalatable, and finally unallegorizable, existence.

1. The Allegory of Taste

Keats's obsession with the metaphor of taste originates early. In his essay "On Gusto" (1817), Keats's mentor in all "matters of taste," William Hazlitt, describes the creative process in aggressively gustatory terms based on Milton: "Milton has great gusto. He repeats his blows twice; grapples with and exhausts his subject. His imagination has a double relish of its objects" (4: 79-80). Keats always acknowledged his debt to Hazlitt's "depth of Taste," which he proclaimed to be (along with Haydon's paintings and Wordsworth's poetry) one of the three things of the age in which to rejoice (Letters 1: 203-5). Sometime during his reading and annotation of Paradise Lost, Keats adapted this Miltonic paradigm of pouncing on, grappling with, and relishing the world of beauty to his own allegory of taste as follows:
 Milton in every instance pursues his imagination to the utmost--he is
 `sagacious of his Quarry' ... he sees Beauty on the wing, pounces upon it
 and gorges it to the producing his essential verse ... (12)


What Keats and Hazlitt share perhaps above all is an emphasis on taste, on gusto as central to the poetic process, and both portray the poet as a ravener. Yet Keats puts into allegorical form even more explicitly than Hazlitt the restricted economy of consumption that defines taste: the subject consumes beauty metaphorically through the mouth and processes it into expression.

In reading this temporal sequence whereby the poet pounces upon, gorges, and expresses beauty--a cycle of appetitive and fiercely carnivorous consumption--as an "allegory of taste," the term allegory is not arbitrarily imposed by me. Keats held that "A Man's life of any worth is a continual allegory," his foremost example being Shakespeare: "Shakespeare led a life of Allegory; his works are the comment on it" (Letters 2: 67). What Keats means by allegory is not the same thing as we inherit from Coleridge, who defines it in The Statesman's Manual of 1816 as an inferior literary device compared to the symbol. For Coleridge, the symbol was a sublime entity, able to contain the sort of ineffability that Wordsworth would call "infinity," while allegory was a more flat-footed means of representation, a false "picture-language which is itself nothing but an abstraction from objects of the senses." (13) Paul de Man has since challenged an uncritical acceptance of Coleridge's elevation of symbol over allegory, arguing that it is a less honest literary mode than allegory, which at least recognizes its distance from that which it is striving to portray. The symbol, in this view, becomes a site of aesthetic ideology, marked by "the translucence of the especial in the general, or of the general in the special, or of the universal in the general" (Coleridge Works 6: 30). De Man claims that Coleridge privileges a phantom translucence over material substantiality, and that the latter therefore dissolves into "a mere reflection of a more original unity that does not exist in the material world." (14) Steven Knapp reads Coleridge more sympathetically, countering that "the fact that Coleridge seems equally comfortable with the metaphors of substance and of translucence suggests that an emphasis on the symbol's materiality is misplaced. (15)

Yet Keats viewed allegory (certainly his allegory of taste) in much the same way that Coleridge viewed his scriptural sequence of symbols: a manner of projecting the self into vital material (or translucent) form. For Keats, "a life of Allegory" means "a life like the scriptures, figurative," where existence is always elevated above its embodied, phenomenal reality. Here too, he differs from Coleridge, who prefers to read scripture against the grain, not as allegory but as "a system of symbols, harmonious in themselves, and consubstantial with the truths, of which they are the conductors" (Works 6: 29). Written in the same year as his 1816 Theory of Lift, Coleridge's description of symbols as "conductors" in The Statesman's Manual borrows from the contemporary idea of electric life, suggesting that like electrical conductors symbols transmit vital power through material particulars. Unlike this sequence of symbols, the "picture-language" of allegory consists of mere unenlivened signs. Either allegory is too abstract to be taken seriously as Being, or else it lacks the vital spark ("translucence") that would enliven it into something more than a material mechanism. As Knapp translates the problem, "the dilemma of allegory is clear. Conceived (in Coleridge's lecture notes) as a medium between literal opacity and figurative reference, allegory can fail in two ways: by surrendering its literal power and thus its interest, or by surrendering its figurative content and thus its character as allegory" (15). What Coleridge's caution lends to Keats's allegory of taste is the recognition that navigating subjectivity through the literary technique of allegory runs the risk of making one's identity either too ethereal, and hence immaterial (what kind of pleasure, after all, is that?), or else too material to qualify as aesthetic--to "live in gusto" and feast upon airy nothings.

What often goes unremarked in Keats's model of pouncing and gorging on beauty is the fact that in Paradise Lost it is not Milton himself, nor his epic narrator, who is "sagacious of his Quarry," but the allegorical figure of Death. In his edition of the poem, Keats underscored the lines in which Death "Grinn'd horrible a ghastly smile, to hear / His famine should be fill'd, and bless'd his maw / Destined to that good hour" (PL 2.846-48; qtd. in Lau 41). His fascination with the hungry creature comes to a peak later in Book 10, when Death (again, in lines Keats underlines) anticipates the mortal feast spreading out before him and "upturn'd / His nostril wide into the murky air / Sagacious of his quarry from so far" (PL 10.280-81; qtd. in Lau 162). In Milton's day, as in Keats's own, "sagacious" was a hunting term for the pouncing creature's acute sense of smell. Thus, in Milton's analogy Death is sagacious "As when a flock / Of ravenous fowl ... come flying, lured / With scent of living carcasses" (PL 10.273-77). Smell is a sense that has been linked throughout the ages not to the more intellectual or "higher" senses of vision and hearing, but to the other bodily sense of taste. (16)

Smell brings one down a notch to the level of the animal, but it can also elevate one to the distinction of the refined connoisseur, or gourmet. The olfactory nerves are responsible for perceiving flavor, and as Frank A. Geldard writes, "Were there no sense of smell there would be no gourmets, only consumers of nutriments." (17) Keats's "Sagacious" poet, like allegory itself, can thus be interpreted in diverse ways. On the one hand, like Milton's Death, he does not have the discrimination necessary to qualify as a gourmet. As Byron puts it in Don Juan, Death is a "Gaunt gourmand" (15.9.5) who devours one and all with like voracity. Death himself knows that he is best off where he is hungriest, or where he can achieve his fullest ravenous potential. In a moment of sublime pathos, he admits: "To mee, who with eternal Famine pine, / Alike is Hell, or Paradise, or Heaven, / There best, where most with ravin I may meet" (PL 10.597-99). Death is a predatory animal closer to the vulture than the votive of taste, though the term sagacious also implies "knowing." As such, it entails the possibility that he is also a creature of discrimination or taste (from the Latin sapere: to taste, to know).

Milton purposively remains equivocal about whether Death's hunger is the "Real hunger" of an actual body or an abstract ideal allegorically embodied, and as a result Death vacillates between body and no body, shape and shapelessness, as a "shape, / If shape it might be call'd that shape had none" (PL 2.666-67). Coleridge alludes to Milton's allegorical figure of Death, the shapeless shape, when he claims that allegory is "an abstraction from objects of the senses ... both alike unsubstantial, and the former shapeless to boot" (Works 6: 30). Death effectively became the allegorical figure of the romantic period, but whereas Coleridge considers Death an abstraction of the concept of hunger, lacking substance, Keats draws on him as an embodied substance that like Raphael and the other "rational" and intelligential substances in the poem must experience "Real hunger." The problem is that; at the very moment of experiencing hunger, the aesthetic subject as such ceases to exist. By figuring a real bodily hunger into his allegory of aesthetic consumption, Keats establishes the ground of its undoing--and of the subject allegorically defined through taste.

Shortly after his Paradise Lost marginalia, Keats compares his own creative process to the pouncing (or swooping) activity of the predator bird. In a letter to his friend John Reynolds of 3 May 1818, he writes that "like the Gull I may dip [crosswise across the page]--I hope, not out of sight--and also, like a Gull, I hope to be lucky in a good sized fish" (Letters 1: 280). From this playful analogy, he segues to Wordsworth and the question of "whether he is an eagle in his nest, or on the wing" (Letters 1: 280). Presumably, the elder poet will be admired for his ability to take wing, to grapple with and exhaust his subject, just as Keats does his "good fish." For if the predatory pursuit of most people merely extends their condition of embodiment, the kind of gorging Keats describes allows the poet to sublimate his identity into that of the "poetical character." The poet who pounces and gorges upon beauty to the producing of essential verse elevates his existence over that of "The greater part of Men [who] make their way with the same instinctiveness, the same unwandering eye from their purposes, the same animal eagerness as the Hawk" (Letters 2: 79). Yet, as his language makes clear, knowledge of a real food chain drives and underwrites Keats's allegory of taste.

Writing to his sick friend Reynolds as he was nursing his brother Tom through the final stages of tuberculosis, Keats describes a "sea; where every maw / The greater on the less feeds evermore ... the core / Of an eternal fierce destruction" (Letters 1: 262). W. J. Bate suggests that this image represents "the huge hungry diversity of life, for which the heart, with its simple presuppositions, is so unprepared." (18) But Keats's heart has already been prepared (if his reading of Paradise Lost is any indication) to recognize an unidealizable hunger lurking beneath the very surface of creation. The marginalia that contains his allegory of taste is scrawled around the margins of Milton's text, enclosing a passage from the creation narrative of Book 7 in which the archangel Raphael describes a sea of hungry generation. At first, the lines Keats underlines suggest a harmless and herbivorous sea of rapidly proliferating "fry innumerable," who scavenge the waters for "Moist nutriment" (PL 7.7.387; qtd. in Lau 141). But these prelapsarian appetites soon give way to a more savage cycle of feeding, as the narrative perspective pulls back to reveal predatory birds who hover above the fish of the sea (PL 7.423-24; qtd. in Lau 142). Against the view that the food chain begins only after the fall, these lines reveal a predatory hunger at the very core of creation. Elsewhere, in a letter to his brother and sister-in-law, Keats recognizes that if each predatory creature were to halt in its ravenous pursuit, "the Hawk would loose his Breakfast of Robins and the Robins his of Worms" (Letters 2: 79). From Keats's perspective, there can be no escape from the ongoing cycle of fierce destruction: "The shark at savage prey--the hawk at pounce, / The gentle Robin, like a pard or ounce, / Ravening a worm," as in his verse epistle to Reynolds (Letters 1: 262). Mortal nature is locked in a cycle of carnivorous consumption that belies all aestheticization.

Keats's early sonnet, "On the Sea" (1817) often an early glimpse into how this uneasy tension between taste and appetite, substance and insubstantiality, works to disrupt the process of pouncing on, gorging, and expressing beauty into essential verse. In the opening lines of the sonnet, the speaker feasts his eyes on the sublime landscape of the sea whose "mighty swell / gluts twice ten thousand caverns." Yet, the climactic turn or volta reveals a disturbing materiality out of place in the speaker's moment of sublime appreciation: "O ye who have your eyeballs vext and tir'd, / Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea" (9-10). While it is common, if not de rigueur, to feast one's eyes upon the beautiful as well as the sublime, this poet speaks not of eyes proper but eyeballs. A Shakespearean residue of Gloucester from the opening scene of Act IV in King Lear, which Keats claims to have inspired the sonnet in the first place (Letters 1: 132), these eyeballs serve as a stubborn reminder of the tragically vulnerable flesh--or "vile jelly"--that comprises the aesthetically perceiving subject. As a metonym for the body with all its hungry cravings, these feasting eyeballs obtrude themselves through the consuming orifice of the eye, disrupting the process of idealizing incorporation. The speaker's appetite will not be allegorized into taste, and the "start" in the final line of the sonnet (usually taken to register an abrupt influx of beauty) instead registers a glimpse, perhaps, too far into the sea.

2. The Ballad on Taste

Written during the same fruitful spring of 1819 as his Great Odes, "La Belle Dame sans Merci" is the place where Keats first fully realizes the hunger underwriting his allegory of taste. The ballad is set in the same ripe, autumnal world as the odes, for just as Keats's ode "To Autumn" is filled "with ripeness to the core" (6) and the "Ode on Indolence" is "Ripe [with] the drowsy hour" (15), the fictional world of the ballad is ripely harvested too: "The squirrel's granary is full, / And the harvest's done" (7-8). However, the satiation and "mellow fruitfulness" that prevail in "To Autumn" in the form of plump hazel shells, sweet kernels, and swelling apples give way, in the ballad, to withered sedge. Viewed through the hungry eyes of the ailing knight, the world appears as a blighted "Autumn." In what follows, I read the starving knight of "La Belle Dame sans Merci" as a version of the "poetical character" who has lost his ability to taste. As Keats's "ballad on taste," the poem narrates the story of one who is, paradoxically, too hungry to experience taste.

It would be useful at the outset to distinguish the ballad from Keats's "ode on the sense of taste," to borrow Helen Vendler's phrase (180). Keats's "Ode on Melancholy" is the place where his use of the metaphor of physical taste achieves symbolic significance. Herder remarked in his notes toward a full-scale theory of the ode that "The firstborn child of sensibility, the fountainhead of poetic art, and the germ cell of its life is the ode." (19) For Herder, "the object of the sensibility is always sensuous" (39), and he probably would not have been surprised that "Melancholy" should be considered Keats's "ode on the sense of taste." The final two stanzas contain, in Leon Waldoff's words, "a richer concentration of gustatory and ingestive imagery ... than in any of the other odes or, for that matter, in most of Keats's poems." (20) The reader, after being urged to "glut" his sorrow on "a morning rose," and to gorge deeply upon his beloved ("feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes"), is given a demonstration of gustatory taste by the poet whose "strenuous tongue," in the climactic moment of the poem, "burst[s] Joy's grape against his palate fine" (27-28). Vendler claims that this ode represents a "world of violently taken pleasure" and that the bursting of joy's grape is evidence of the "centrality and normalcy of aesthetic response": "The locus of the beautiful and the pleasurable is the normal and equilibrated, if strenuous, experience of the fine palate bursting a fruit into savor, of a bee-mouth sipping nectar" (159-89). Levinson, by contrast, sees this moment as evidence of a characteristically dysfunctional consumption. In her view, the strange phrase, "burst Joy's grape," is metonymic for an unnaturally restricted gratification:
 The pleasure of grapes is, literally, the pleasure of grapes: the natural,
 plural, clustered condition of the grape. It is, further, the pleasure of a
 mouth, a throat, and a stomach full of grapes, a pleasure visually
 inscribed in that perfectly plumped, most self-identical fruit. Moreover,
 the verbal joy of grapes is, again, the pleasure of fullness and plurality:
 clusters, bunches, all those engorged sounds.

 The complete Keatsian pleasure (revealingly, a melancholic delight)
 consists of a single grape not swallowed. (77-78)


Whether the "Ode on Melancholy" illustrates vigorously taken pleasure, and hence a successful taste experience a la Vendler, or a failed effort to taste & la Levinson, it contains Keats's most memorable display of bodily taste as an analogue for, or a symbol of, aesthetic enjoyment.

Unlike the ode, which is principally a lyric mode, the ballad is narrative and lends itself to allegorical reading. Keats's ballad narrates the experience of a poor knight who is physically wasting away for no explained reason, but seemingly for lack of proper nutrition. We are told that he has been given "roots of relish sweet," "honey wild," and "manna dew" by the mysterious Belle Dame. And though we never actually see him eat this food within the poem, we assume that he has consumed it and that he is suffering from some sort of terminal poisoning as a result. The narrative thus becomes the story of a helpless wight caught in the grips of a femme fatale, and the interpretive task is to discover precisely what she allegorically represents. The consuming power of love, the seductive power of death (from consumption), the danger of being swallowed up by literary tradition itself, have been among the answers proposed. But the point of the ballad is that its central figure is slowly wasting away, and it is entirely possible that he has entered the ballad in a fevered condition (which as we know from Hume is no condition for a correct experiment of taste). (21) Rather than the knight's having been poisoned by the airy food of "honey wild" and "manna dew," I would like to consider the possibility that his sickened condition predates the proffered meal. In other words, he may have wandered into the diseased landscape of Keats's ballad on taste already ailing, and hence unable to experience disinterested pleasure.

Jack Stillinger, in his notes to the standard collected edition of the poem, suggests a relation between the starving knight of "La Belle Dame sans Merci" and Joseph Addison's allegorical knight from "The Pleasures of the Imagination" (1712). These papers were foundational texts for the eighteenth-century discourse of taste, which Keats read prior to writing the ballad. To my knowledge, Stillinger's important insight, seeing these two knights as related, has not figured into the numerous critical compositions and decompositions surrounding the poem. Keats's journal letter of April 1819, which contains the only existing manuscript version of the ballad, refers to Addison indirectly through Hazlitt. Keats quotes at length from Hazlitt's reply to William Gifford in the Quarterly Review of January 1818, the end of which retorts: "Is this a new theory of the Pleasures of the imagination, which says that the pleasures of the imagination do not take rise soly [sic] in the calculations of the understanding?" (Letters 2: 75). This rhetorical question was Hazlitt's way of implying that aesthetic experience (a "mental" response to bodily sensation, or "the Pleasures of the Imagination") had been long distinguished from rational thought.

In The Spectator 413, to which Stillinger refers us as a potential source for the ballad, Addison wonders why the Creator should have furnished human beings with pleasures that are not strictly sensual, and hence not immediate incentives to food and sex or that which sustains the individual and the species, respectively. Hobbes, who considered "Appetite" and "Aversion" to be the two generic modes of empirical experience, also distinguished more specifically among the "Pleasures of Sense," a category which could include both the sensual pleasures of appetite (emptying and filling the belly) and the intermediate pleasures of sense: "Of this kind are all Onerations and Exonerations of the body; as also all that is pleasant, in the Sight, Hearing, Smell, Tast, or Touch." (22) What he called "Pleasures of the Mind," on the other hand, were superadded to sensory experience by the imagination. Like Locke, Hume, and other British empirical philosophers, Hobbes argues that "any thing that is pleasure in the sense, the same also is pleasure in the imagination" (56). (23) Following in this same tradition, Addison's "Pleasures of the Imagination" offer a version of mental taste rooted firmly in the bodily pleasures of sense.

However, the "Pleasures of the Imagination" allow one to delight further in God's creation than one would be able to if limited exclusively to the pleasure of the body. To demonstrate Addison offers the analogy of a "disconsolate Knight," who suddenly finds himself stripped of these added pleasures:
 We are every where entertained with pleasing Shows and Apparitions, we
 discover imaginary Glories in the Heavens, and in the Earth, and see some
 of this visionary Beauty poured out upon the whole Creation; but what a
 rough unsightly Sketch of Nature should we be entertained with, did all her
 Colouring disappear, and the several Distinctions of Light and Shade
 vanish? In short, our Souls are at present delightfully lost and bewildered
 in a pleasing Delusion, and we walk about like the Enchanted Hero of a
 Romance, who sees beautiful Castles, Woods and Meadows; and at the same
 time hears the warbling of Birds, and the purling of Streams; but upon the
 finishing of some secret Spell, the fantastick Scene breaks up, and the
 disconsolate Knight finds himself on a barren Heath, or in a solitary
 Desart. (24)


In a note to this passage, Addison refers his reader to Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which offers a scientific explanation of why light and color are not merely bodily sensations, but quintessential "Pleasures of the Imagination." In particular, Addison refers to "that great Modern Discovery, which is at present universally acknowledged by all the Enquirers into Natural Philosophy: Namely, that Light and Colours, as apprehended by the Imagination, are only Ideas in the Mind, and not Qualities that have any Existence in Matter." For Keats, the idea of "the several Distinctions of Light and Shade" as contributing to aesthetic pleasure is nothing new. In a letter of 19 March 1819, he asks, "is not giving up, through good nature, one's time to people who have no light and shade a capital crime?" (Letters 2: 77). I would submit that like Addison's knight, disconsolate in the loss of the "Pleasures of the Imagination," Keats's allegorical knight in "La Belle Dame sans Merci" is ailing because he can no longer "taste" the beauty surrounding him.

Keats himself frames the ballad as an allegory of taste. While the title refers back to Chartier's medieval ballad of the same name, the signature which accompanied the poem in Hunt's Indicator on 10 May 1820 ("Caviare") troped the poem as a more sophisticated delicacy than the "mawkishness" offered up for public consumption in the preface to Endymion. In September of 1819, Keats recognized that "My name with the literary fashionables is vulgar--I am a weaver boy to them" (Letters 2: 186). Substituting "Caviare" for his own "vulgar" name was a defense against the kind of criticism leveled at him for "that sugar & butter sentiment, that cloys & disgusts," as even his friend Richard Woodhouse remarked of Endymion (KC 1: 91). The allusion thus distances him from what Keats had called "the mass [who] are not of soul to conceive of themselves or even to apprehend when presented to them, the truly & simply beautiful <in> poetry," since theirs is "A taste vitiated by the sweetmeats & kickshaws" of the age (Letters 1: 381). And since the ballad first appeared under Hunt's auspices as editor of the Indicator, it was also a public way to rewrite the nickname given to him by Hunt: "Junkets," meaning sweetmeats, cakes, or confections. By 1819, Keats had not only gained the critical distance necessary to parody "Junkets" with the more knowing "Caviare," but to complain of "Men like Hunt who from a principle of taste [only, it is implied] would like to see things go on better" (Letters 1: 396). Hunt's frivolity was wearing thin on a poet for whom beauty was not merely superfluous gratification but a vital source of sustenance in a world growing darker and barren of hope for survival.

At the same time as the pseudonym "Caviare" distances him from the "vitiated" taste of Hunt, it associates him with the superior taste of Hamlet. In the second act of Hamlet, Hamlet requests from the court players the performance of a monologue from a certain a play that "pleased not the million; `twas caviare to the general." He explains that the play failed with the vulgar multitude because "there were no sallets in the lines to make the matter savory." A more discriminating audience, however, would perceive in it "an honest method, as wholesome sweet, and by very much more handsome than fine." (25) By fine, Hamlet intends finery here: trappings, ornamentation, trumpery (or translated into culinary terms, sweetmeats, kickshaws, and junkets). Levinson points out that the pseudonym was a subtle allusion to Hamlet's contempt for "palates rude":
 Caviar is, of course, and was in Keats's day (and, apparently,
 Shakespeare's), what Keats would call a luxury and what we might designate
 a supplemental food. No one eats caviar from hunger. This is not to say
 that caviar lacks nutritional value or that a hungry person couldn't be
 satisfied by a soupbowl of the stuff, only that its food status is to
 indicate indifference to nutritional and appetitive interests. One eats
 caviar to show that one need not eat at all, and this, obviously, is to
 signify an ontologically replete character. (52-53)


The court food of caviar was designed to satisfy a "palate fine," not one starving and gaping wide. Unlike junkets and sweetmeats, which provide untutored enjoyment that any young child can enjoy, a taste for caviar is a passport into the cultured world of gourmets and connoisseurs. By signing the poem "Caviare," Keats prepares us to enter a ballad on taste, but the allegorical task of pouncing and gorging on beauty is suddenly in the hands of one who can no longer perceive the "visionary Beauty poured out upon the whole Creation."

If we are to consider the poem in light of "The Pleasures of the Imagination," the one question we would do well to ask, but which seems so antithetical to the spirit of the poem that we have not bothered to ask it, is whether the knight could have been ailing before he encountered the fairy maid and the ethereal food she provides. Critics have noticed that the elaborate meal in "The Eve of St. Agnes," for example, never gets consumed. But here we presume (although we never see this food eaten either) that the food is not only consumed, but that it is wreaking havoc upon the withered frame of the knight. For most readers, the knight "has become addicted to what he can never again taste. The question next becomes, what has he eaten, and who gave him to eat that he might become accursed?" (26) The source for this interpretive response is the seventh stanza of the ballad, in which the fairy lover gathers food for the knight:
 She found me roots of relish sweet,
 And honey wild, and manna dew,
 And sure in language strange she said--
 I love thee true.


We are aware that the knight reads into the stranger's words (which he could not understand since they were spoken "in language strange") the message, "I love thee true." But we read into his words when we assume that he eats the food he has been offered. Bate defends the Belle Dame's culinary intentions (if not the quality of the food itself) from her adverse critics: "The food she finds for him--roots, `honey wild and manna dew'--is meant neither to delude him nor to starve him by preventing him from taking other food. However inadequate it is for him, it is appropriate enough to her, and the only food she is able to provide" (480). I would further suggest that her intentions are not only innocent, but irrelevant to his current condition. When viewed as an interloper from Addison's colorless field of no-taste--a world stripped of all "Pleasures of the Imagination"--he is ailing in that he cannot taste or relish the world as the true "poetical character" should. We have not considered the fact that he may have entered the ballad in a condition too hungry to experience taste metaphorically, as an analogue for mental taste.

Insofar as he never eats within the province of the poem, the knight of Keats's ballad on taste differs from the pining lover of Endymion, for example, who prior to becoming "Gaunt, wither'd, sapless, feeble, cramp'd, and lame" (3.638), at least gluts himself on "juicy pears," "blooming plums," and "cream, / Deepening to richness from a snowy gleam" (2.444-51). The knight may eat between the lines of the poem, but, as in "The Eve of St. Agnes," one never knows for certain whether any food has been consumed. Indeed it is entirely possible to view his meal from the same perspective as William Michael Rossetti once viewed Porphyro's. When the latter "produces from a cupboard and marshals to sight a large assortment of appetizing eatables, Rossetti remarks: "Why he did this no critic and no admirer has yet been able to divine." (27) Moreover, if the dietary connotation of the name Porphyro comes into play, his food is as insubstantial as the fairy's. Porphyry's On Abstinence from Animal Food was a major source for vegetarian argumentation during the romantic era, and Keats refers in his letters to vegetable food as "pseudo victuals" (Letters 2: 271), a type of food unable to sustain anyone with "Real hunger." (28) Both Porphyro's food and the fairy's food in "La Belle Dame sans Merci" are to be approached, if at all, without hunger. (29) The problem for the hungry knight whose body is visibly wasting away is that he is in no position to "taste," or aesthetically to appreciate, the beauties that are presented to him.

3. Hyperion's "Ample Palate"

As Keats's "poetical character" enters the epic world of Hyperion, the experience of taste sours into the philosophical condition of nausea. Readers often wonder why Keats should have titled his epic Hyperion, rather than, say, "Apollo," when it is the latter who is the ascendant god, the ostensible poet, and the figure who presumably transforms into the human speaker of The Fall of Hyperion. Stuart Sperry suggests that Keats "was in different ways committed to both deities at once, that they were projections of conflicting sides of his own poetic nature he could not as yet resolve." While I agree that neither Hyperion nor Apollo provide a viable paradigm of the poet for Keats, I do not see the two fragments of the poem as constituting a progression, or as Sperry puts it, "the purgation of the unstable, tormented existence he in many ways detested and the birth of the secure, serene type of creator he desired to become." (30) Rather, this "unstable, tormented existence" is embodied by both of the gods, and it is one that struggles forward in human form in The Fall of Hyperion. As the first-person speaker of this final epic fragment drags himself forward through various agonies of the flesh (in order, we are told, to avoid encroaching starvation), he seems to be running from the nausea afflicting all the gods of Hyperion, emblems of his own existence writ large.

When we first encounter the eponymous hero, Hyperion, he is in the act of attempting to taste--or snuff, a synaesthesia I will return to in a moment--the world as the "poetical character" should. As the only Titan who has not relinquished his place to the Olympian gods, he is sitting crouched over, attempting to taste the incense drifting up to him from the world below:
 Blazing Hyperion on his orbed fire
 Still sat, still snuff'd the incense, teeming up
 From man to the sun's God; yet unsecure:

 (1.166-68)


As we have seen, Keats allegorizes the poet as a ravenous pursuer of beauty after Milton's figure of Death. In another line marked in his edition of the poem, Death, sensing the mortal feast spreading out before him, "snuff'd the smell / Of mortal change on Earth" (PL 10.272-73; qtd. in Lau 40). Andrew Bennett points out that the function of the repeated "still" in the final line above is unclear; it "presupposes a former reference which is unavailable to the reader--an anterior disnarrated--so that the sense of stillness or silence is produced through narrative absence." (31) Yet when referred back through Keats to the "Sagacious" creature of Paradise Lost, Hyperion is still sitting, still snuffing the smell of "mortal change" on earth like the ravenous figure inscribed as poet into Keats's allegory of taste. As the central brooding figure of the poem's "mammoth-brood" (1.164), Hyperion recalls Milton's brooding Spirit of Creation (PL 7.235-39), a figure that Wordsworth revises as "a mind / That feeds upon infinity, that broods / Over the dark abyss" (The Prelude 14.70-72). The brooding Hyperion, attempting to consume the smells from the world below, is likewise an epic emblem of creation: not a mind that feeds (or metaphorically tastes) the transcendental food of infinity, but rather a mind that snuffs.

Of course, as physiologists from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries recognized, snuffing is a form of physical taste. From classical times, people associated smell and taste as the two most bodily, and hence "primitive," of all the senses. In philosophical discourse since Plato, as Carolyn Korsmeyer remarks, "the most basic distinction that separates sight and hearing from smell, taste, and touch concerns the apparent degree of involvement of the body in the operation of the senses." (32) Keats also notes the intimate connection between these senses in his anatomical and physiological notebook: "The different sensations reside in peculiar structures as the toes & fingers which have papillae through which the sense of feeling--the papillae of the Tongue are different from those of the Toes & fingers & are larger--the papillae of the Membrane of the nose are very minute & sensitive." (33) While the term "papillae" is still in use, not all of these small observable bumps are sense receptors. Taste buds, or microscopic cells housed by the hundreds within a single papilla, were not discovered as the actual taste receptors until 1867. (34) Before that time, as Keats records, the papillae were thought to be the bodily receptors of taste, smell, and touch, and it was observed that they were "very minute & sensitive" on the nose and much larger and coarser on the tongue.

Smell and taste came linked as a pair, and of the two, the sense of smell was thought to be the more discriminating. An 1821 review of a dozen cookery books in the Edinburgh Magazine predates contemporary science by suggesting that smell is a more refined version of taste: "the sense of smell has a most important part in the pleasures to which the coquus magnus and the butler administer; being that sense from which every viand, solid and liquid, derives what is called its flavour." (35) In his Observations on Physiology, the English physiologist John Hunter (1728-93), whose lessons Keats imbibed during his medical training at Guy's, ranked smell after the "higher" senses of sight and hearing and observed: "This sense has a degree of refinement above taste; and ... I am inclined to think that we can in some measure judge of the taste of a body from the smell, and vice versa." (36) J. G. Spurzheim records that "physiologists regard smell as a completion or a finer and higher degree of taste," and by 1825 the self-styled gastronomer, Jean Brillat-Savarin, would claim that "smell and taste are in fact but a single composite sense, whose laboratory is the mouth and its chimney the nose; or to speak more exactly, in which the mouth performs the degustation of tactile bodies, and the nose the degustation of gases." (37) In the scientific mindset of the romantic era, snuffing was not only a version of tasting, but a much finer one at that.

Eighteen lines after Hyperion snuffs the incense, the scene strangely recurs in a manner that now explicitly confuses taste with smell:
 Also, when he would taste the spicy wreaths
 Of incense, breath'd aloft from sacred hills,
 Instead of sweets, his ample palate took
 Savour of poisonous brass and metal sick:

 (1.186-89)


Whereas sight and hearing were traditionally considered to be oriented toward the external world, the lower, bodily senses were thought to say more about the perceiving subject than the object of taste. In his Anthropology flora a Pragmatic Point of View, Kant stressed the physical intimacy of taste and smell, which he considered "chemical" (as opposed to "mechanical") senses, and "subjective" rather than "objective." (38) In 1787 the physiologist J. F. Blumenbach, who was an influence on Kant and a mediator between British and German physiology, observed that taste and smell "have been generally named chemical or subjective senses." (39) Harold Bloom intuits that the passage above is a part standing for the whole of the poem, and I would further suggest that Hyperion's snuffing--or rather his frustrated efforts to snuff--is a sustained effort at subjective self-making that strains past the bounds of the first Hyperion and into the second, where the speaker's first task is to taste. (40)

As closely as smell and taste were associated, smell was not only distinguished from taste as being finer and more sensitive to flavor: it was more sensitive to negative tastes in particular, and hence, to the feeling of disgust. Scientists speculated that in order to be perceived, an odor must physically detach itself from the object and invade the substance of the perceiving subject. Plato had it right in The Timaeus when he wrote that "smells are of a half-formed nature" and "always proceed from bodies that are damp, or putrefying, or liquefying, or evaporating, and are perceptible only in the intermediate state, When water is changing into air and air into water, and all of them are either vapor or mist." (41) This view is confirmed today, for as Geldard writes, "To stimulate the sense of smell materials must be airborne and in a finely divided state (271). Odors generally proceed from organic rather than inorganic substances and are given off by a chemical change in a body. This fact led scientists such as Spurzheim to conclude that smell was the only unmediated sensation: "smell in its immediate functions perceives odorous particles emanating from external bodies, without any reference to the object" (301). The sociologist Alain Corbin reports that from the 1770s on, "The translation of olfactory vigilance into scientific language led to a striking increase in references to smells by all the experts in the late eighteenth century. Henceforth this vigilance had manifold aims: to detect irrespirable gases and particularly `airs,' and to discern and describe hitherto imperceptible viruses, miasmas, and poisons." (42) Smell was thought to be more sensitive to distaste than to pleasure, and between 1760 and 1780 it became confirmed as the sense most appropriate to studying the phenomena of putrefaction. Invoking smell as a means of tasting and relishing the world, Keats predisposes Hyperion to disgust far more than pleasure.

The quality of smell as an unmediated sensation disturbs Kant, again, in the Anthropology where he writes that "when confronted with many dishes and bottles, one can choose that which suits his pleasure without forcing others to participate in that pleasure"; on the other hand, he observes that "Smell is, so to speak, taste at a distance, and other people are forced to share a scent whether they want to or not" (45). This obtrusive quality of smell recurs in his formal critique of taste, where he takes up the problem of the scented handkerchief. Even the sweet smell of perfume can be a source of disgust and repulsion, Kant argues, especially in a crowd where it is, as it were, forced upon us: "the man who pulls out his perfumed handkerchief from his pocket gives a treat to all around whether they like it or not, and compels them, if they want to breathe at all, to be parties to the enjoyment, and so the habit has gone out of fashion" (Critique 196). Elsewhere, he speaks of that "strange sensation," which occurs when "the object is represented as insisting, as it were, upon our enjoying it, while we still set our face against it" (Critique 174). Derrida offers an acute analysis of this repulsive Kantian object as follows: "By limitlessly violating our enjoyment, without granting it any determining limit, it abolishes representative distance.... It irresistibly forces one to consume, but without allowing any chance for idealisation." (43) The result is not pleasure but nausea.

Smell in its sensual invasiveness left little room for idealization, and in Hyperion the point is precisely that when Hyperion "would taste" the incense sweet, the "Savour of poisonous brass and metal sick" forces itself upon his otherwise capacious palate. According to Kant, when pleasure "is forced upon us, the mind finds it repugnant and it ceases to be nutritive as food for the intellect.... Thus the natural instinct to be free of it is by analogy called nausea" (Anthropology 45). By the same token, and to a far worse degree, objects calculated not to please but disgust "awaken nausea less through what is repulsive to eye and tongue than through the stench associated with it ... this sense can pick up more objects of aversion than pleasure" (Anthropology 45-46). Snuffing the smells from the mortal world below, Hyperion is particularly vulnerable, not to pleasure so much as aversion. In fact, the only existing holograph of Hyperion reveals that the line "Savour of poisonous brass and metal sick" did not originally begin with "Savour," or taste proper. It began instead with "A nausea." (44) As Jonathan Bate narrates this revision:
 Keats struggled with the final line in an attempt to convey the sickly
 sweet smell of incense. `A nausea,' he begins, `A nauseous feel,' he then
 tries, but `feel' is heavily crossed out, perhaps because it smacked of
 Leigh Huntism. `Poison' then replaces `nauseous' and `feel' has to be
 reinstated: the line thus becomes `A poison feel of brass and metals sick.'
 ... But when the manuscript is adapted for The Fall, Keats again rejects
 `feel,' so that in the new poem the line becomes `Savour of poisonous brass
 and metals sick' (FH 11, 33). (45)


Keats's multiple revisions certainly indicate that he struggled with the line, but was it really in an attempt to convey the "sickly-sweet" smell of incense, as Bate suggests? The incense may be sweet, but there is nothing to indicate that it is overly, or "sickly" sweet, and according to the grammar, it is the metal not the incense that is sick. Critics since Bate have noticed the existentialist tone of Hyperion, the fact that they "anticipate much that we associate with existentialism (no other major nineteenth-century poem does this to the same extent)." (46) Yet this casual association deserves further analysis. For what Keats discovers in the Hyperion poems is that existentialism's philosophical roots lie in a discourse where nausea plays a distinctively aesthetic role, namely the discourse of taste.

The only other time the word "metal" appears in Keats's poetry is in the description of the other fallen gods of Hyperion--and here too it is productive of sickness. At the start of Book 2, Hyperion's fellow Titans are introduced in a similar crouched position, with
 Their clenched teeth still clench'd, and all their limbs
 Lock'd up like veins of metal, crampt and screw'd;
 Without a motion, save of their big hearts
 Heaving in pain, and horribly convuls'd
 With sanguine feverous boiling gurge of pulse.

 (2.24-27)


The grammatically dubious "still" makes another appearance in these lines, mediating between the adverbial perpetuity of the god's suffering and the adjectival stillness of the scene. Their "clenched teeth still clench'd" conveys the sense of their being cabined, cribbed, confined--or "clench'd," "crampt, and screw'd" in metal. As Hyperion sits and snuffs the poisonous metallic fumes from the world below, he seems merely in an earlier stage of having all his limbs "Lock'd up like veins of metal." And at the time Keats was working on the first Hyperion, he was himself familiar with the poisonous taste of metal, for he was consuming it in prescribed portions of mercury.

Writing to his friend Benjamin Bailey in October of 1817, Keats records that as a result of having taken mercury he has "corrected the Poison and improved my health" (Letters 1: 171). There is some debate among his biographers about whether Keats took mercury during 1817 and 1818 as a remedy for syphilis (as Aileen Ward argues), or gonorrhea (as Robert Gittings claims), or a different ailment entirely. (47) But in the early decades of the nineteenth century, it was widely prescribed as a treatment for venereal disease, and venereal disease was itself considered a morbid poison. Hunter claims that "The Venereal Disease arises from a poison, which, as it is produced by disease, and is capable of again producing a similar disease, is called a morbid poison, to distinguish it from the other poisons, animal, vegetable, and mineral." (48) Hermione de Almeida has pointed out that M. J. B. Orfila's A General System of Toxicology (1814) was a text available to Keats at Guy's Hospital, and that in it the French physician lists six classes of animal and mineral poisons, two of which are relevant here: the corrosive poisons, such as copper, brass, tin, and zinc, which irritate and corrode the organs, and the narcotico-acrid poisons such as mercury, which stupefy, paralyze, convulse, and cause a red or (as Keats writes above) "sanguine feverous" color (152). When Keats writes to Bailey that he has "corrected the Poison" and improved his health by swallowing mercury, he effectively substitutes a metallic for a morbid poison.

As a remedy for "the Venereal Poison," mercury primarily afflicted the mouth, but also the rest of the digestive tract; to Hunter it was known for "causing sickness in the one and griping and purging in the other" (Treatise 289). In addition to producing pains like those of rheumatism and locking up the veins like metal, therefore, this particular "metal sick" blocked the ability to taste. Hunter specifically writes that attention must be given to the patient's diet, for "the local effects of the medicine, in the mouth, preven[t] his taking many kinds of nourishment" (Treatise 294). This metallic poison, as an antidote to the morbid poison of venereal disease, in turn produced a hunger and a constant state of anxiety. Roughly a year after his letter to Bailey above, Keats records: "I live now in a continual fever--it must be poisonous to life although I feel well ... after all it may be a nervousness proceeding from the Mercury" (Letters 1: 369). When Hyperion snuffs the "metal sick" in Hyperion, he too is "unsecure," his "horrors, portion'd to a giant nerve" (1.175). If his nervous, and possibly feverous, shudderings may be a nervousness proceeding from the mercury, as Keats speculates with regard to himself, then the poisonous metal he consumes turns the taste experience into the "nauseous feel" of existence. Anxious, nauseated, and "unsecure," Hyperion is one of the first philosophically "absurd" creatures in literature. (49)

The same can be said of the other fallen gods. Saturn's behavior, for instance, is typical of one who has failed to allegorize his existing self through taste and so lapsed into "the horror or absurdity of existence" (as per Nietzsche's epigraph above). Faced with an existence that cannot be palated, an existentialist reasoning suggests that the best thing to do is to commit oneself to action in an arbitrary way. Consequently, when Saturn awakes from his cramped, stupefied condition in The Fall of Hyperion, he calls upon his fellow gods to lament. Then, for no apparent reason, and within the space of a single line, he calls on them to rebel. His extended Lear-like lament, "Moan, brethren, moan" (1.412), "Moan, brethren, moan" (1.418), "Moan, moan, / Moan, Cybele, moan" (1.424-25), "Moan, brethren, moan" (1.427), concludes:
 O, O, the pain, the pain of feebleness.
 Moan, moan; for still I thaw--or give me help:
 Throw down those imps and give me victory.

 (1.429-31)


On the heels of Saturn's extended moaning, the sudden shift in the middle line above often a quintessentially existentialist moment. Saturn seems to sense that all action, whether moaning or fighting, is absurd in that it is meaningless. He seems to have experienced the same "metal sick" that has begun to nauseate Hyperion, for he too is clenched and "crampt." In fact, when de Almeida discusses the potential effects of mineral poisoning upon the gods of Hyperion, she assumes that it is Saturn, not Hyperion, who is doing the snuffing. (50) The mistake is telling, for viewed in light of Keats's allegory of taste, all the "metal-veined" gods are absurd.

From this perspective, Keats's famous advice to Percy Shelley of 16 August 1820, to "load every rift" of his subject with ore (that is, metal, especially precious metal) bears retrospectively upon a poem in which he seems to have taken his own advice literally. "A modern work it is said must have a purpose," he writes, "which may be the God--an artist must serve Mammon--he must have `self-concentration' selfishness perhaps. You I am sure will forgive me for sincerely remarking that you might curb your magnanimity and be more of an artist, and `load every rift' of your subject with ore" (Letters 2: 322-23). In the episode of The Fairie Queene that Keats alludes to here, Spenser describes the Cave of Mammon in which "rich metall loaded every rifte" (2.7.28). Although there is some bitterness in his tone (Shelley, he believed, condescended toward him as a Cockney poet), the statement registers the necessity of an artistic mettle associated with the selfish principle of Mammon. Selflessness was the essence of the "poetical character" for Keats, though, as he admitted, he was himself "not old enough or magnanimous enough to annihilate self" (Letters 1: 292). To curb one's magnanimity is to curb one's dissolution into the "unpoetical ... no Identity" of the chameleon poet, and thereby to experience the metallic aftertaste of existence.

The Keatsian poet who "hves in gusto" hves in a world of consuming orality: he pounces upon, gorges, and expresses beauty into essential verse. Everything in this restricted cycle of consumption circulates through the mouth: the portal through which one passes from appetite into expression, or from leaden existence into the fiction of aesthetic subjectivity. But to be a chameleon-poet feeding on air was becoming a fast impossibility for a poet who was literally starving. Having spent his annus mirabilis writing against the threat of literal starvation, Keats himself concludes within weeks (perhaps days) of the above letter to Shelley: "The last two years taste like brass upon my Palate" (Letters 2: 312). Nausea is the final inheritance of the chameleon-poet, and in what follows I wish to show how the nausea experienced by the snuffing Hyperion becomes the problem of the human speaker. If, in a world deprived of all hope of redemption (aesthetic or otherwise), all one needs is the will to go on, to move forward through randomly directed spurts of death, the speaker of The Fall of Hyperion succeeds where the gods of Hyperion fail: he finds the will to drag himself forward toward inevitable doom. He seems to know the desperate truth that feeling nauseated (the "nauseous feel" of his own existence) is better than feeling nothing at all. (51)

4. Striving to Escape the Nausea

Unlike Coleridge's drugged poet in "Kubla Khan," a poem to which The Fall of Hyperion has often been compared, Keats's speaker makes it clear that the substance he consumes at the outset is "No Asian poppy, nor elixir fine" (1.47). After witnessing the sickness numbing all the gods of Hyperion--including Apollo, who complains that "a melancholy numbs my limbs" (3.89)--this speaker considers numbness a condition to be struggled against. He seems determined to pull himself out of such numbed existence, and into a more aesthetically alert condition with regard to pleasure and pain. Donald Goellnicht discusses how, in the spring of 1819 between the two Hyperions, Keats experienced a numbed condition in which "pleasure has no show of enticement and pain no unbearable frown" (Letters 2: 78-79). In a letter to George and Georgiana Keats that serves as the raw matter for the "Ode on Indolence," Keats describes thissame condition, which he later versifies as follows: "Benumb'd my eyes; my pulse grew less and less / Pain had no sting, and pleasure's wreath no flower" (17-18). Like most of Keats's poetic personae, the speaker of The Fall of Hyperion does not experience "The pain alone; the joy alone; distinct" (1.174). Thus, for him also, where pain has no sting, pleasure's wreath has no flower. Goellnicht records that the botanist, William Salisbury, with whom Keats studied in the spring of 1816, explains the after-effects of opium as "a degree of nausea, a difficulty of respiration, lowness of the spirits, and a weak languid pulse" (226). Keats's own experience had familiarized him with the nauseating effects of this "Asian poppy" long before he sought refuge in the "cursed bottle of Opium," which Severn snatched from him three months before his death (Letters 2: 372). In The Fall of Hyperion, the speaker's attempt "to escape / The numbness" (1.127) is an attempt to escape the nausea of an absurd because aesthetically impossible existence.

Here, as in Hyperion, the protagonist's first task is to taste. After a hallucinatory induction on the nature of dreams, he wakes up to what at first seems to be a Miltonic invitation to gorge. But upon closer inspection, it turns out to be the remains of an already-ravished feast:
 a feast of summer fruits,
 Which, nearer seen, seem'd refuse of a meal
 By angel tasted, or our mother Eve;
 For empty shells were scattered on the grass,
 And grape stalks but half bare, and remnants more.
 (1.29-33)


Bloom powerfully reads this scene as an allegory of poetic belatedness, and speculates that the above remnants of an "apparently interrupted meal" are not only left over Milton, but from a meal Milton does not mention, namely the last eaten by Adam and Eve before their expulsion from paradise (Visionary 422). Whether they are left over from a meal shared by Raphael and Adam, or by Adam and Eve, however, they certainly seem left over from Milton. In his copy of Paradise Lost, Keats marked Milton's description of the meal in Book 5, as well as Raphael's effusions upon the joys of angelic eating (qtd. in Lan 40). The "empty shells" and "grape stalks" above seem directly descended from the "smooth rind, or bearded husk, or shell" that Eve gathers with unsparing hand (PL 5.342). But instead of paradisiacal food, Keats's speaker finds refuse. Instead of grapes, only picked-over, remnant grape stalks.

This speaker seems to rice a fear that can be traced back to Endymion, where the hero's "fever parches up my tongue" (2.319); through the "Ode on a Grecian Urn," whose represented passions mirror the poet's "parching tongue" (29); to The Fall, where even the fires are "fainting for sweet food" (1.233). Immediately following the feast, the speaker is warned that if he does not keep moving, his flesh "Will parch for lack of nutriment", (1.110). Originally, Keats had turned to Hyperion and the epic struggle of the gods as a refuge from the sufferings of his brother Tom, whom he was nursing through the advanced stages of tuberculosis. Experience had shown him that vegetable food was commonly prescribed fire for the consumptive patient, and it is likely that he felt himself to be threatened by the disease the entire time he was working on Hyperion. (52) His medical training would have enabled him to predict that before long he too would be "under an inderdict with respect to animal food [and] living upon pseudo victuals," and in fact, by October 1819, he had "left offanimal food" (Letters 2: 271, 225). The vegetable scraps above (or "pseudo victuals") seem hardly sufficient to a poet who wishes to gorge on the beauty of life, but who in real life was literally starving. As his physician James Clarke would later properly guess, "The chief part of his disease ... seems seated in his Stomach" (KC 1: 172). Fever was considered an early sign of consumption, and it was a constant preoccupation in Keats's letters contemporaneous with the poem. By the time he enters The Fall of Hyperion as the starving first-person speaker, he has become a mere "fever of [him]self" (1.169). Ultimately, these ominous signs from his poetry and letters were materialized in his own "parching tongue" and body "hinting for sweet food."

Unlike the speaker of Keats's ballad on taste, whom we assume eats but whom we never actually see doing so, this speaker digs into the refuse with "appetite / More yearning than on earth [he] ever felt" (1.38-39). He seems determined to live through the allegory of taste defined by Keats, and to avoid giving into the nauseous taste of existence. Gorging on the food before him, he will convert that matter back into essential verse, and after devouring the half-eaten vegetable scraps, he consumes a "transparent juice" and proclaims: "That full draught is parent of my theme" (1.42-46). Keats never forgot the ad hominem attack on him in Blackwood's of August 1818, in which the pseudonymous "Z" (John Gibson Lockhart) in reviewing Endymion gibed: "Whether Mr John had been sent home with a diuretic or composing draught to some patient far gone inthe poetical mania, we have not heard. This much is certain, that he has caught the infection, and that thoroughly" (qtd. in Matthews 98). Whether or not we can associate Lockhart's "composing draught" with the "full draught" that prompts the composition of The Fall of Hyperion, its consumption is clearly productive of verse. (53)

Having reappropriated the vintage for the purposes of allegorizing taste, the speaker converses with the goddess Moneta. He longs to look into her mind, which he likens to earth's "sullen entrails rich with ore" (1.274), and when he does manage to penetrate their depths, he finds himself once again in a realm of poisoned stasis. In this valley of existential sickness, he sees the rest of the fallen gods, or "eagle brood" (2.13), whom Moneta refers to as "our brood" (1.305), cast in the same tortured postures they had held in Hyperion. Relics of the kind of statuary described in Keats's sonnet "On Seeing the Elgin Marbles" (1817), the gods appear as "sculpture builded up upon the grave / Of their own power" (Fall 1.383-84). The first-person speaker of the sonnet senses that he must die "Like a sick eagle looking at the sky," and by the time he reaches the diseased realm of The Fall of Hyperion the entire "eagle brood" seems to suffer "an immortal sickness" (1.258).

The same marginal gloss that contains Keats's allegory of taste in Paradise Lost embellishes the ravenous pursuit of the poet by adding that "in no instance is this sort of perseverance more exemplified than in what may be called his stationing or statu[a]ry: He is not content with simple description, he must station. Thus here, we not only see how the Birds `with clang despised the ground' but we see them `under a cloud in prospect'" (qtd. in Lau 142). Nancy M. Goslee shows how this reference to "stationing" is drawn from picturesque discourse of the late eighteenth century. (54) However, Keats himself professed a "great dislike of the picturesque," and as he was composing The Fall of Hyperion on the Isle of Wight in the summer of 1819, he complained of tourists who come "hunting after the picturesque like beagles," adding: "It is astonishing how they raven down scenery like children do sweetmeats" (Letters 2: 142, 130). Wordsworth also became critical of the picturesque as an appetitive aesthetic, implicated in the wider economies of consumerism. (55) As Keats's speaker succumbs to the statuesque numbness he had been striving to avoid, he gives into the obtuseness of material existence and is left "gasping with despair / Of change" (1.398-99).

Eventually, one begins to wonder whether all this statuary (whether of metal or of marble) is not simply the reverse of a melting subjectivity. Just as Hyperion snuffs and the human speaker drinks a "transparent juice," Apollo drinks a "bright elixir peerless" (3.136) which causes his limbs to become "celestial" or non-material and the poem dissolves. While the fallen Titans are too "clenched" in the concentration of selfhood, Apollo is too "magnanimous" to sustain Being within the poem. Readers have recognized in this "bright elixir peerless" the nature of the pharmakon: an ambigmous Greek word meaning either a healing or a poisonous substance. (56) The term derives from Apollo himself as the original Pharmakeus, god of medicine, pestilence, and poetry. When Apollo drinks this strange potion, he undergoes a strange transformation that is either beneficent, malevolent, or both: "Soon wild commotions shook him, and made flush / All the immortal fairness of his limbs" as he straggles like those who "with fierce convulse / Die into life" (3.124-30). Similarly, when Hyperion snuffs the "Savour of poisonous brass and metal sick," he consumes a kind of pharmakon that causes him to die into life reduced to existence. (57)

Whereas Apollo is dissolved into celestial ethereality ("no Identity") at the end of the first Hyperion, Hyperion is annulled at the end of the second. The bulk of Canto 2 is imported virtually unchanged from Hyperion, and here too, Hyperion's "ample palate takes / Savour of brass and metals sick" (2.32-33). He is still sitting, still snuffing the same repugnant medley of smells from before: "Blazing Hyperion on his orbed fires / Still sits, still snuffs the incense teeming up / From man to the Sun's God" (2.15-17). However, the line "Still sits, still snuffs" is now in the present tense--closer, if possible, to a condition of self-concentrated stasis. The poem's final words ("on he flared") deliver this "large limb'd" Titan in one apocalyptic blast from our view. Keats's allegory of consuming and expressing beauty simply will not sustain the poet, and its effects are registered in these two poetic extremes. Whereas Hyperion is on his way to being locked in the self-concentration of metal, Apollo's apotheosis is an annihilation of self and by the opening of The Fall of Hyperion, he is already "faded, far flown Apollo" (1.204). In classical mythology these two sun gods, Hyperion and Apollo, are not analogous: Hyperion lacks Apollo's status as god of poetry. But in Keats's poem they are complementary figures for the "poetical character" attempting to taste and relish the world. They are transient occupants in an epic allegory in which the greater on the lesser feeds evermore, and neither finally provides a viable paradigm for the hungry poet.

When The Fall of Hyperion was abandoned (I am not the first to suspect) "the reason may have been simply that the complex process it dramatized was being transferred from the poem to its author's literary biography." (58) Keats is virtually unique among poets in the fact that the details of his physical disintegration, the "ghastly wasting-away of his body and extremities" documented in painful detail in the journal letters of Severn, form an appendix (if not a more vital appendage) to his literary corpus. Gittings observes that "The last few months left to Keats, though barren of poetry, a time when he felt he had lost his vocation for ever, have nevertheless a living poetry of their own." (59) Here I do not intend, nor perhaps does Gittings, this "living poetry" as a romanticization of dying from tuberculosis. Keats had lived through the horrible progress of the disease first with his mother, and then with his brother, and would not have endorsed the view that it was glamorous to look sickly. If consumption functioned as a metaphor in the nineteenth century, an artistic mode of self-representation whereby (as Susan Sontag puts it) "It became rude to eat heartily. It was glamorous to look sickly," the "living poetry" of Keats's final months does not amount to self-glamorization. (60) Rather, it may be considered an extension of the "posthumous life" begun in The Fall of Hyperion when the speaker wakes up from the refuse of an abandoned meal into a nauseated existence (Letters 2: 378). If not The Fall of Hyperion, then certainly Keats's poetic corpus can be said to conclude with Keats himself. His figurative obsession with aesthetic taste constitutes a late romantic aesthetic writ large upon the starving body of the poet.

Christopher Ricks suggests a connection between Keats and the modernist aesthetic of nausea when he proposes that Jean-Paul Sartre has produced "the best criticism of Keats ever written not about him." (61) I would add to this insight by suggesting that Keats has produced the best criticism of Sartre ever written not about him in the Hyperion poems. (62) Sartre's Being and Nothingness (1943) is a foundational text of the philosophy of existentialism, and in it (a section that Ricks also quotes) Sartre observes that "There is in the fact that we cannot grasp water a pitiless hardness which gives to it a secret sense of beLrlg metal; finally it is incompressible like steel." (63) As a defensive reaction against the slimy--for the Sartre of La Nausee, the repulsive sticky stuff of existence--the metallic, statuesque figures of Hyperion are equivalent to a melting subjectivity. As we have seen, when Saturn awakes from his stupefied condition in The Fall of Hyperion, he moans that he is thawing. And like so many of Keats's dissolving personae, from Endymion to Lamia, Keats writes of himself on 13 October 1819: "I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving" (Letters 2: 223). The feeling continues through the following spring when he complains, "Feeding upon sham victuals and sitting by the fire will completely annul me. I have no need of an enchanted wax figure to duplicate me for I am melting in my proper person" (Letters 2: 286). Such liquefaction is poignantly registered in the bitter words of his own epitaph: "here lies one whose name was writ in water." In the end, Yeats's classic image of Keats as "a schoolboy ... With face and nose pressed to a sweet-shop window" is more apt than we may have realized. Looking out with Yeats at the boy with face and nose pressed up against the sweet-shop window, we are forced to confront (in Levinson's words) "the embarrassingly squashed nose" (89n). This squashed nose--and face, since both are pressed against glass--illustrate a breakdown of form, a physical disintegration that plays out on the hungry body of the poet. Ultimately, both extremes, whether the subjective rigor mortis of poisonous metal or a dissolving subjectivity, represent failures to allegorize, or sublimate, the material substance of self. The result is an existentialist nausea that I take to be the endgame of aesthetic taste.

Stanford University

(1.) The Letters of John Keats, ed. Hyder Edward Rollins, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1958) 2: 169.

(2.) Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, trans. Walter Kaufman (New York: Vintage, 1967) 60.

(3.) Elizabeth Bishop, Letter to Robert Lowell, 30 March 1959, in One Art: Letters, Selected and Edited, ed. Robert Giroux (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1994) 372.

(4.) Quoted in G. M. Matthews, ed., Keats: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971) 35.

(5.) This is Ille's response to Hic in "Ego Dominus Tuus," Yeats's Poems, ed. A. Norman Jeffares (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1989) 266.

(6.) Lionel Trilling, The Opposing Self (New York: Viking, 1955) 17.

(7.) The two influential texts at odds here are Helen Vendler, The Odes of John Keats (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1983); and Marjorie Levinson, Keats's Life of Allegory: The Origins of A Style (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988),

(8.) William Hazlitt, The Complete Works of William Hazlitt, ed. P. P. Howe, 21 vols. (London: J. M. Dent, 1930) 4: 78.

(9.) David Masson observed in 1861 that this is "one of the most startling and significant sayings ever uttered by a man respecting himself." Quoted in Matthews 374. Even friends such as Charles Cowden Clarke, identify Keats's "civil creed" as "A thing of beauty is a joy forever," Charles Cowden Clarke and Mary Cowden Clarke, Recollections of Writers (New York: Charles Scribner's, 1878) 146. Robert Kaufman sketches the critical history of the divide over the formalist Keats lost in the abstractions of beauty and the historical Keats rooted in the "civil" concerns of dissenting and post-Jacobin circles in "Negatively Capable Dialectics: Keats, Vendler, Adorno, and the Theory of the Avant-Garde," Critical Inquiry 27 (Winter 2000: 354-84.

(10.) Quoted in Hyder Edward Rollins, ed., The Keats Circle, 2 vols., 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1965) 1: 178. Hereafter cited as KC in the text.

(11.) Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgement, trans. James Creed Meredith (Oxford: Clarendon, 1952) 49-50.

(12.) Beth Lau, Keats's Paradise Lost (Gainesville: UP of Florida, 1998) 142; cf. his earlier comment that "What the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth" (Letters 1: 184).

(13.) The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, gen. ed. Kathleen Coburn, ed. R. J. White, 14 vols. (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1969-98) 6: 30-31.

(14.) Paul de Man, Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism, 2nd. ed., intro. Wlad Godzich (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983) 192.

(15.) Steven Knapp, Personification and the Sublime: Milton to Coleridge (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1985) 15.

(16.) Classical accounts of smell are helpfully explained by John I. Beare in Greek Theories of Elementary Cognition from Alcmaeon to Aristotle (Oxford: Clarendon, 1906) 131-59.

(17.) Frank A. Geldard, The Human Senses (New York: John Wiley; London: Chapman & Hill, 1953) 270.

(18.) Walter Jackson Bate, John Keats (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1963) 309.

(19.) Johann Gottfried Herder, Selected Early Works 1764-1767, ed. Ernest Menze and Karl Menges (University Park: Penn State UP, 1992) 36.

(20.) Leon Waldoff, Keats and the Silent Work of Imagination (Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1985) 152.

(21.) "A man in a fever would not insist on his palate as able to decide concerning flavours, nor would one affected with the jaundice pretend to give a verdict with regard to colours. In each creature there is a sound and a defective state; and the former alone can be supposed to afford us a true standard of taste and sentiment," David Hume, Essays; Moral, Political, and Literary, ed. Eugene F. Miller, 2nd ed. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1985) 233-34.

(22.) Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Richard E. Flatman and David Johnston (New York: Norton, 1997) 33.

(23.) Hume, for example, writes that "every thing, which is agreeable to the senses, is also in some measure agreeable to the fancy, and conveys to the thought an image of that satisfaction, which it gives by its real application to the bodily organs," A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. L. A. Selby Biggs, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1978) 358.

(24.) Joseph Addison, The Spectator, ed. Donald F. Bond, 5 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965) 3: 546-47.

(25.) William Shakespeare, Hamlet, ed. Edward Hubler (New York: Penguin, 1963) 2.2.446-47, 451-56.

(26.) Harold Bloom, The Visionary Company: A Reading of English Romantic Poetry, 2nd ed. (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1971) 385. Hermione De Almeida captures the ambiguous nature of the "roots of relish sweet" when she reads them as a pharmakon or "ambiguous potion given beneficent or sinister meaning according to the intention of the giver." However, she too considers the roots "malignant," Romantic Medicine and John Keats (New York: Oxford UP, 1991) 155.

(27.) Quoted in Earl R. Wasserman, The Finer Tone: Keats's Major Poems (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1953) 113.

(28.) Porphyry's Essay on the Abstinence of Animal Food, translated in 1823 by Shelley's friend Thomas Taylor, was known to leading vegetarian writers such as William Lambe and Joseph Ritson, who in his Essay on the Abstinence of Animal Flesh, as a Moral Duty (London: Richard Phillips, 1802), quotes it directly: 104 ff. Timothy Morton offers a helpful survey of the topic in "The Pulses of the Body: Romantic Vegetarianism and its Cultural Contexts," in 1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era, ed. Kevin L. Cope (New York: AMS Press, 1998) 31-87.

(29.) Timothy Morton discusses the food in the thirtieth stanza of "The Eve of St. Agnes" as luxurious or supplemental in The Poetics of Spice: Romantic Consumerism and the Exotic (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000) 109-70.

(30.) Stuart M. Sperry, Keats the Poet (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1994) 192-93.

(31.) Andrew Bennett, Keats, Narrative and Audience: The Posthumous Life of Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994) 149.

(32.) Carolyn Korsmeyer, Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1999) 12.

(33.) John Keats, Anatomical and Physiological Note Book, ed. Maurice Buxton Forman (New York: Haskell House, 1970) 55.

(34.) Of the four distinct kinds of papillae (fungiform, foliate, circumvallate, and filiform), all but the filiform contain taste buds (Geldard 300).

(35.) "Cookery," The Edinburgh Review (March 1821): 43-62.

(36.) John Hunter, Essays and Observations on Natural History, Anatomy, Physiology, Psychology, and Geology, ed. Richard Owen, 2 vols. (London: John van Voorst, 1860 1: 179.

(37.) Johann Gaspar Spurzheim, Phrenology; or the Doctrine of the Mental Phenomenon (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1908) 300; Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste, or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy, ed. Arthur Machen (London: Peter Davies, 1925) 25-26. Similarly, Hegel observes in his Philosophy of Nature, that taste and smell "are very closely allied and in Swabia not distinguished, so that there one has only four senses. For one says, `The flower tastes good,' instead of `It smells good'; we Swabians therefore smell, as it were, with the tongue too, so that the nose is superfluous,' Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Philosophy of Nature, trans. M. J. Petry, 3 vols. (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1970) 2: 217.

(38.) Immanuel Kant, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, trans. Victor Lyle Dowdell (Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1978) 44-45.

(39.) Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, The Institutions of Physiology, trans. John Elliotson, 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: Benjamin Warner, 1817) 240.

(40.) Harold Bloom, Poetry and Repression: Revisionism from Blake to Stevens (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1976) 123.

(41.) The Collected Dialogues of Plato, including the Letters, ed. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1961) 1190.

(42.) Alain Corbin, The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1986) 14-15.

(43.) Jacques Derrida, "Economimesis," trans. R. Klein, Diacritics 11.2 (1981: 3-25 (22).

(44.) John Keats, Manuscript Poems in the British Library: Facsimiles of the Hyperion Holograph and George Keats's Notebook of Holographs and Transcripts, ed. Jack Stillinger (New York: Garland, 1988) 13.

(45.) Jonathan Bate, "Keats's Two Hyperions and the Problem of Milton," Romantic Revisions, ed. Robert and Keith Hanley (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992): 321-38 (328).

(46.) Walter Jackson Bate, John Keats 591.

(47.) Donald C. Goellnicht sketches the history of this debate in The Poet-Physician: Keats and Medical Science (Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1984) 201-3.

(48.) John Hunter, A Treatise on the Venereal Disease, ed. George Gisborne Babington (Philadelphia: Haswell, Barrington, and Haswell, 1839) 19.

(49.) I refer, of course, to the existentialist sub-genre of absurdism. Etymologically, "absurd" (from the Latin surdus, "deaf") suggests its own lineage in the philosophical discourse of taste. As an orifice of aesthetic perception, the ear registers the absurd object as tasteless.

(50.) I intend no disrespect; the confusion works productively in the other direction as well (de Almeida 167).

(51.) Cf. Keats's dying letter to his friend Charles Brown: "I wish for death every day and night to deliver me from these pains, and then I wish death away, for death would destroy even those pains which are better than nothing" (Letters 2: 345-46). Severn describes Keats's final days as a painfully existentialist condition: "this noble fellow lying on the bed--is dying in horror--no kind of hope smoothing down his suffering--no philosophy--no religion to support him--yet with all the most knawing [sic] desire for it--yet without the possibility of receiving it" (Letters 2: 368).

(52.) Biographers from Leigh Hunt on agree that Keats felt himself to be suffering from tuberculosis several years before his death: "Keats had felt that his disease was mortal, two or three years before he died" (The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt with Reminiscences of Friends and Contemporaries, and with Thornton Hunt's Introduction and Postscript, ed. Roger Ingpen, 2 vols. [Westminster: Archibald Constable, 1903] 209). Indeed, one discerns throughout the early poetry ("On Seeing the Elgin Marbles," "Sleep and Poetry") indications that this is so.

(53.) Nicholas Roe argues that Blackwood's helped shape Keats's work and identity as a "pharmacopolitical poet" in John Keats and the Culture of Dissent (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997) 160-201.

(54.) Nancy Moore Goslee, Uriel's Eye: Miltonic Stationing and Statuary in Blake, Keats, and Shelley (Alabama: U of Alabama P, 1985).

(55.) Wordsworth's relation to the picturesque is complex; his earliest extant letter, written in September 1790, describes a picturesque tour to the Alps: "again and again in quitting a fortunate station have I returned to it with the most eager avidity, with the hope of bearing away a more lively picture" (The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth: The Early Years, ed. Ernest De Selincourt, 2nd ed., Chester L. Shaver [Oxford: Clarendon, 1967] 1: 35-36). He indicates an ensuing resistance to the picturesque in a footnote added to Descriptive Sketches; see The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, ed. Ernest De Selincourt and Helen Darbishire, 5 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1940-49) 1: 62n. However, he continued to be conversant with the work of Gilpin and Price, and his Guide to the Lakes reveals its influence. On Wordsworth's relation to picturesque tradition, see, among others, Matthew Brennan, Wordsworth, Turner, and Romantic Landscape: A Study of the Traditions of the Picturesque and the Sublime (Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1987) 35-48; Timothy Fulford, Landscape, Liberty and Authority: Poetry, Criticism and Politics from Thomson to Wordsworth (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996) 157-213; Christopher Hussey, The Picturesque: Studies in a Point of View, 2nd ed. (London: Frank Cass, 1967) 23-97.

(56.) Derrida's reading of Plato's Phaedrus hinges on the indeterminacy of pharmakon as both "remedy" and "poison." Jacques Derrida, Dissemination, trans. and intro. Barbara Johnson (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1981) 65-171. Cf. Levinson 210-11; and de Almeida 146-74.

(57.) I offer a fuller explication of what it means to "Die into life" in "The Monster in the Rainbow: Keats and the Science of Life," PMLA 117.3 (May 2002): 433-48.

(58.) Irene H. Chayes, "Dreamer, Poet, and Poem in The Fall of Hyperion," Philological Quarterly 46.4 (1967): 499-515 (515).

(59.) Robert Gittings, John Keats (London: Heinemann, 1968) 410.

(60.) Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor (New York: Vintage, 1979) 28.

(61.) Christopher Ricks, Keats and Embarrassment (Oxford: Clarendon, 1974) 139.

(62.) For development of this argument, see my "The Endgame of Taste: Keats, Sartre, Beckett," in Romanticism on the Net 24 (2001): http://users.ox.ac.uk/?scato385/.

(63.) Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (New York: Washington Square P, 1956) 775.

DENISE GIGANTE, Assistant Professor of English at Stanford, has recently completed a literary history of aesthetic taste from Milton through romanticism, from which this essay is taken. Related work on the topic can be found in diacritics (2000), Romanticism on the Net (2002), and Eating Romanticism, edited by Timothy Morton for Palgrave (2002, forthcoming). Her current project is on romantic aesthetics and the science of life.
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Title Annotation:John Keats
Author:Gigante, Denise
Publication:Studies in Romanticism
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Date:Dec 22, 2001
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