“…amid the alien corn…”

The voice I hear this passing night was heard

         In ancient days by emperor and clown:

Perhaps the self-same song that found a path

         Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,

                She stood in tears amid the alien corn;

                        The same that oft-times hath

         Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam

                Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn./

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell

(lines 63-71 of “Ode to a Nightingale” (1820) by John Keats.)

From Wikipedia:

“…”Ode to a Nightingale” describes a series of conflicts between reality and the Romantic ideal of uniting with nature. In the words of Richard Fogle, “The principal stress of the poem is a struggle between ideal and actual…”…

At the beginning of the 20th century, Rudyard Kipling referred to lines 69 and 70, alongside three lines from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, when he claimed of poetry: “In all the millions permitted there are no more than five—five little lines—of which one can say, ‘These are the magic. These are the vision. The rest is only Poetry.’…

Albert Guerard, Jr. argues that the poem contains a “longing not for art but a free reverie of any kind. The form of the poem is that of progression by association, so that the movement of feeling is at the mercy of words evoked by chance, such words as fade and forlorn, the very words that, like a bell, toll the dreamer back to his sole self.”…

Although the poem was defended by a few critics, E. C. Pettet returned to the argument that the poem lacked a structure and emphasized the word “forlorn” as evidence of his view. In his 1957 work, Pettet did praise the poem…David Perkins felt the need to defend the use of the word “forlorn” and claimed that it described the feeling from the impossibility of not being able to live in the world of the imagination…

In a review of contemporary criticism of “Ode to a Nightingale” in 1998, James O’Rourke claimed that “To judge from the volume, the variety, and the polemical force of the modern critical responses engendered, there have been few moments in English poetic history as baffling as Keats’s repetition of the word ‘forlorn'”. When referring to the reliance of the ideas of John Dryden and William Hazlitt within the poem, Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, in 1999, argued “whose notion of poetry as a ‘movement’ from personal consciousness to an awareness of suffering humanity it perfectly illustrates.” ”

see also https://www.artsjournal.com/aboutlastnight/2017/02/replay-somerset-maughams-the-alien-corn.html

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