Emotion vs. Intellect in Ode to a Nightingale and Since Feeling is First

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Emotion vs. Intellect in Ode to a Nightingale and Since Feeling is First We must look for guidance from the emotions…not the mind. This romantic philosophy is portrayed in the works of both John Keats’s "Ode to a Nightingale" and E. E. Cummings’s "Since Feeling is First." Each poet addresses the complex relationship of following one’s emotion and passion as opposed to one’s thought. Whereas Cummings supports living life fully in order to escape the confines of thought, Keats suggests death as the only possible means of overcoming this human consciousness. Cummings’s "Since Feeling is First" compares the inadequacy of mental analysis with the beauty of emotional spontaneity by "argu[ing] feeling and the abandonment of inhibition to larger forces" (Heyen 133). For the poet, acute perception comes from feeling, not thinking, which only allows us to "see" indirectly. In other words, the beauty of the experience is, in and of itself, proof of the power of beauty. Thus, Cummings desires the reader "to render the image of what we see, forgetting everything that existed before us" (Cohen 42). Such a statement is not a condemnation of rationality, but instead an affirmation of the mystery of things, which is more compatible with feeling than with knowing, supposing the latter to be a form of measuring that lacks love. For Cummings, mind is only a villain when it becomes dissociated from feeling. Yet, with his first line, it is very important that he convince his reader of his premise that "feeling is first." For, Cummings is writing a seduction poem. He is telling the woman in the poem, in a carpe diem manner reminiscent of seventeenth-century style, to make good use of time, to act from feeling, to abandon her "syntax" in... ... middle of paper ... ...raff, Gerald. Poetic Statement and Critical Dogma. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1980. Heyen, William. "In Consideration of Cummings." Southern Humanities Review Spring. 1983: 131-42. Jarrell, Randall. "The Profession of Poetry." Partisan Review Fall. 1950: 724-31. Knight, G. Wilson. The Starlit Dome-Studies in the Poetry of Vision. New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 1960. Maurer, Robert E. "Latter-Day Notes on E. E. Cummings’s Language." E. E. Cummings: A Collection of Critical Essays. 1972: 79-99. Vivante, Leone. English Poetry and its Contribution to the Knowledge of a Creative Principle. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983. Wesolek, George. "E. E. Cummings: A Reconsideration." Renascence Autumn. 1965: 3-8. Williams, Meg Harris. Inspiration in Milton and Keats. Totowa: Barnes and Noble Books, 1982.

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