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“Negative capability means the capability of negating oneself”. The expression used by Keats indicates the ability of the poet to keep himself aloof from his writings. Keats defines negative capability thus, “one who has negative capability, is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” It is also known as objectivity or impersonality. Keats certainly had this objectivity or impersonality, though he was writing in the age of subjectivity. In Ode to a Nightingale Keats’s idea of negative capability is seen to a considerable extent. Though he faces the tragic dilemma of life, he is able to share the joy of the nightingale. Forgetting the stern realities  of life, he enjoys the joy of an ideal world in his imagination. 

Likewise, in Ode on a Grecian Urn, Keats is able to take joy in the ‘unheard’ melodies. The Grecian urn is a symbol of purity and its message teaches the poet out of thought until he can only contemplate and absorb the eternal values it symbolises, “without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” 

The phrase ‘negative capability’ was first coined by John Keats. In a letter written to his brothers George and Thomas on 21st December 1817. Keats tried to clarify the phrase negative capability used by him. According to Keats, negative capability is the quality of a poet or a creative writer to remain outside of or detached from what he is writing about. In other words, it is a quality of maintaining objectivity or impersonality in writing. A poet or a creative writer may primarily be concerned with conveying personal experience and feelings but s/he should be careful about the fact that s/he is also writing about other people rather than about himself/ herself. This quality of preserving a quality of universality is the aesthetic distance and that is what Keats wanted  to mean by negative capability.

Keats’ poems maintain negative capability to a great extent, and “Ode to Autumn” is an instance of this. 

The poet’s mind might have swayed or influenced by autumnal beauty but he maintained a proper balance to describe all these sights with sensuous imagery. His personal emotions has been universalized. The speaker/ poet has been able to identify himself with everyone, because anyone reading the poem feels the intended joy and pleasure produced by the poem. Therefore, the poet is able to keep himself ‘outside’ the poem.Thus Keats’s “Ode to Autumn” maintains the poet’s theory of negative capability. 


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