Guernsey Post to commemorate 200th anniversary of publication of Keats’s ‘Odes’

Guernsey Post announces that it will issue Alderney stamps to commemorate the 200thanniversary of the publication of John Keats’s six lyric odes, which are considered by many to be among his greatest poetic achievements (issue date: 24 July 2019). 

Bridget Yabsley, head of philatelic at Guernsey Post, said: – “Born on 31stOctober 1795 in London, Keats is one of the greatest English poets and a key figure in the Romantic Movement. He wrote his six lyric odes between March and September 1819 when he was just twenty-four years old. Tragically, he died of tuberculosis in February 1821.

“We are absolutely delighted to celebrate the publication of Keats’s odes with stamps featuring symbolic and semi-abstract imagery to capture the overall mood and themes of the odes.”

The stamps: -

Ode to a Grecian Urn (48p): When the speaker of the poem gazes at the Grecian urn, he contemplates the nature of truth and beauty. Each of the three scenes depicted on the urn moves him differently and he describes them in detail, admiring their artistry.

Ode on Indolence (65p): Keats’s speaker describes a vision he had one morning of three figures wearing white robes and ‘placid sandals’. The figures passed by in profile, and the speaker describes their passing by comparing them to figures carved into the side of a marble urn. The tone of the language moves from cold to warm, from the coldness of the urn to the warmth of the languid world.

Ode on Melancholy (66p): Possibly the most uplifting of Keats’s odes, this three-stanza poem contrasts slightly from the others as it addresses the reader, rather than an object or an emotion, who suffers with melancholy, and tells him not to worry. Melancholy is turned into a beautiful subject by Keats’s flowing words and, rather than seeking escape through intoxication or even suicide, the reader should savour the mood because it has divine properties.

Ode to a Nightingale (80p): Inspired by a real life nightingale, the poem’s opening stanza forms its entranced, almost hallucinatory mood. He is addressing a nightingale he hears singing somewhere in the forest and says that his “drowsy numbness” is not from envy of the nightingale’s happiness, but rather from sharing it too completely. He happiness is bittersweet at the thought of the nightingale’s carefree life.

Ode to Psyche (90p): In this highly lyrical poem full of emotion, the speaker imagines that he has either seen, or dreamed that he has seen, the beautiful winged goddess Psyche, beloved of Cupid, whilst wandering in a forest. The speaker presents Psyche as an ideal woman who achieves the status of immortal goddess through her love for Cupid. As a newcomer to the abode of the gods, no one has erected a temple or an altar in her honour, and so the speaker will build a temple to Psyche in his mind and act as her priest. 

Ode to Autumn (98p): Throughout the poem, Keats’s speaker visualises autumn as a god or goddess. Autumn is personified and is perceived in a state of activity, beginning as a collaborator with the sun to bring fruits to a state of perfect fullness and ripeness. In the final stanza, autumn is seen as a musician, producing the sounds of gnats, lambs, crickets, robins and swallows.

The stamps are available to pre-order from 1stJuly 2019 at www.guernseystamps.comor by contacting Philatelic Customer Services on +44 (0)1481 716486.

John Keats Set of 6

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