This paper will consider the ways in which poetic bowers, for Keats, can consist of ‘sweet dreams, health, and quiet breathing’ (Endymion) – or ‘calm-breathing’ (‘Ode to Psyche’) – and equally exist as those confined, claustrophobic, enclosed poetical spaces that are ‘Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn’ (Hyperion). Metaphorically, then, the activity (and kind) of breathing calibrates the healthy or unhealthy atmosphere of what can either be an alluring albeit stultifying, and unhealthy ‘embalmed darkness’ (‘Ode to a Nightingale’) or an enclosed space where the poet, optimistically, leaves ‘a casement ope at night’ to usher in the revitalising, healthy, breath of ‘warm Love’ (‘Ode to Psyche’). That many of Keats’s poetical bowers commingle easy and disquieted breathing, healthy vitality and unhealthy decay, suggest that these imaginative spaces are shaped out of Keats’s physical sense of the dilemma facing both the poetic imagination and human existence.
Inventions of the Text is a student-led seminar series at Durham University’s Department of English Studies. Postgraduate students and staff from all relevant humanities departments across the UK are welcome to participate. The next seminar in the series will be on 9th March with Dr Katherine Baxter (Northumbria University).