His body seemed to think

Aubrey de Vere, in 1887? (according to Google Books) or 1849? (according to Christopher Ricks), writing on Keats:

Perhaps we have had no other instance of a bodily constitution so poetical. With him all things were more or less sensational; his mental faculties being, as it were, extended throughout the sensitive part of his nature—as the sense of sight, according to the theory of the Mesmerists, is diffused throughout the body on some occasions of unusual excitement. His body seemed to think; and, on the other hand, he sometimes appears hardly to have known whether he possessed aught but body. His whole nature partook of a sensational character in this respect, namely, that every thought and sentiment came upon him with the suddenness, and appealed to him with the reality of a sensation. It is not the lowest only, but also the loftiest part of our being to which this character of unconsciousness and immediateness belongs. Intuitions and aspirations are spiritual sensations; while the physical perceptions and appetites are bodily intuitions.

One thought on “His body seemed to think

  1. Great quote, Nada. I think that claim is also borne out in the quality of his measure as well. Reading Keats aloud is a SENSUAL pleasure. A couple of years ago, I memorized “Ode to a Nightingale,” which I can still recite by heart. I am continually amazed at the physical pleasure I get from reciting lines like:MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk, Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk: ‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, But being too happy in thine happiness, That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees, In some melodious plot Of beechen green, and shadows numberless, Singest of summer in full-throated ease.It moves along rather lazily and slowly (like someone who is high, I guess you could say), with all kinds of dependent clauses interrupting the thought, and then BLAM! “Singest of summer in full-throated ease” comes along and you can literally feel the physical sensation of the mind waking from its stupor.

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