Keats’s Sehnsucht


Sehnsucht is a German word that translates that Romantic feeling of intense longing (das Sehnen) with its addiction (die Sucht). The intensity of the emotion is given by the awareness that the object of our desires cannot be conquered, the consequent profound pain could be unacceptable for someone and eventually lead to suicide. But there is also a non pathological meaning: longing is also what makes man feel alive and happy. In Ode on a Grecian Urn the poet is attracted by the marble figures on the breede of the urn. There are trees, musicians and maidens pursued by “bold lovers“. As I said in the previous post, the urn belongs to “slow time” (eternity) so those lovers will never reach their goal. Their Sensucht will last forever. But their hopelessness is seen by Keats as the true source of happiness. Their longing is the real love, it will last forever and time will not “waste” it.The Knight-at-Arms of La Belle Dame Sans Mercì had reached his goal but when he awakes from his dream of love he finds himself alone “on the cold hill side“. A sense of emptiness replaces the longed fulfillment. There is no real happiness in the material world.

4 thoughts on “Keats’s Sehnsucht

  1. Leopardi thought The same thing. He said that man could not be happy because he always wanted more and only with imagination could he create a surrogate happiness. I agree that in the material world there is not happiness.

  2. I sum up all this with the word romance. the pain, the desire for something unreachable, are the basis of all romantic literature. for this is born of the imagination, the so-called “vague and undefined” for Leopardi, which distracts us from reality projecting us into a world of illusion and simple memories of the past …

  3. I have just read your post “Just about”.. And it linked to this one…
    This is exactly what I meant to say when I commented there and mentioned a never ending moment of joy…
    “Sehnsucht, “slow time” (eternity) so those lovers will never reach their goal”.
    Also french romantic poets might linked it to “la petite morte”, which was the ending point of the sexual encounter…

    Best wishes, dear Stefy. Great post!.
    Aquileana 😛

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