Keats' Poems and Letters

Keats and Schopenhauer: Nonhuman Ignorance as Escape College

The need to escape from agitation into tranquility is often sought after means to terminate suffering. The term “escape”, derived from the French “eschaper,” is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a noun, “the action of escaping, or the fact of having escaped, from custody, danger,” and also a verb, “to gain one’s liberty by flight; to get free from detention or control, or from an oppressive or irksome tradition.” John Keats’ poem, “Ode to a Nightingale,” portrays both definitions as his dissatisfied speaker desperately seeks an end to his misery. In the presence of a nightingale, he examines a set of possible methods of escape from his discontented human life. His speaker fails to do so through multiple metaphors and concludes that complete escape and transcendence is impossible and only accessible by the nightingale, the nonhuman. In his philosophical piece, Animals Have No Concepts, Artur Schopenhauer further explores such tranquil ignorance of the nonhuman and why the human envies it so heavily, as seen in Keats’ poem. Schopenhauer concludes that the nonhuman is able to live in permanent “escape” through his correlation between the capacity to understand time and the capacity to understand suffering. Although...

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