Analysis of the Transformation of Lamia

This extraordinary creation is both sexually alluring and yet clearly menacing and ‘demonic’. By using the term ‘rainbow-sided’ of her body, Keats even seems to be recalling his old Newtonian joke, and inventing his own mysterious biological rainbow, a living creature who is both a spectre and a spectrum. There are many other passages which play with medical and scientific imagery in the poem — for example Hunter’s theory of ‘inflammation’ as proof of vitality. When Lycius desperately grasps Lamia’s chilly hand, ‘all the pains/Of an unnatural heat shot to his heart’.41 But most memorable and disturbing is the passage in which Lamia the snake changes into Lamia the woman, ‘a full-born beauty new and exquisite!’ This new birth is described in semi-scientific terms, as if Keats were observing a violent chemical experiment in a laboratory, or a surgical procedure (like Fanny Burney’s), or one of Aldini’s electrical trials. It is agonising. Lamia’s serpentine body begins to convulse, her blood ‘in madness’ runs through her length; she foams at the mouth, and her saliva ‘so sweet and virulent’ burns and ‘withers’ the ground where it spatters. Her eyes ‘in torture fixed’ become glazed and wide. The ‘lid-lashes’ are seared, and the pupils flash ‘phosphor and sharp sparks’.

She writhed about convulsed in scarlet pain:
A deep volcanian yellow took the place
Of her milder-moonèd body’s grace;
And as the lava ravishes the mead,
Spoilt all her silver mail, and golden brede;
Made gloom of all her frecklings, streaks and bars,
Eclipsed her crescents, and licked up her stars...

Keats never lets his reader forget this traumatic birth, and what it has cost the serpent to become a human being. His extraordinary invention, perhaps the most brilliant and thought-provoking of all his narrative poems, engages many of the moral issues surrounding Vitalism, the nature of life, and the notion of human consciousness. Above all, perhaps, it asks if the beautiful Lamia has a soul.


An interesting critical viewpoint of Lamia's transformation and the influence of science on the language.

Folksonomies: enlightenment science poetry critical critical theory

Lamia (0.984120 (positive:0.152355)), beautiful Lamia (0.824978 (neutral:0.000000)), interesting critical viewpoint (0.729183 (positive:0.547585)), old Newtonian joke (0.715811 (neutral:0.000000)), unnatural heat shot (0.704204 (negative:-0.344024)), mysterious biological rainbow (0.698765 (neutral:0.000000)), violent chemical experiment (0.686523 (neutral:0.000000)), blood ‘in madness (0.676082 (negative:-0.537757)), deep volcanian yellow (0.658422 (positive:0.495422)), extraordinary creation (0.567798 (positive:0.473558)), semi-scientific terms (0.536205 (neutral:0.000000)), Fanny Burney (0.533570 (neutral:0.000000)), serpentine body (0.519519 (negative:-0.478356)), golden brede (0.518662 (neutral:0.000000)), scientific imagery (0.513827 (neutral:0.000000)), extraordinary invention (0.512827 (positive:0.780913)), full-born beauty (0.512307 (positive:0.629352)), snake changes (0.511292 (positive:0.515207)), electrical trials (0.509578 (negative:-0.213641)), surgical procedure (0.506297 (neutral:0.000000)), new birth (0.505626 (neutral:0.000000)), scarlet pain (0.505404 (negative:-0.865412)), example Hunter (0.504344 (neutral:0.000000)), sharp sparks (0.502005 (negative:-0.248638)), milder-moonèd body (0.497965 (positive:0.454690)), silver mail (0.493147 (negative:-0.450412)), moral issues (0.492591 (positive:0.642530)), narrative poems (0.491826 (positive:0.831619)), traumatic birth (0.487567 (neutral:0.000000)), human consciousness (0.487413 (neutral:0.000000))

John Keats (0.927100): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Serpent (0.920415): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Poetry (0.917023): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Lamia (0.899015): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Passage (0.873670): dbpedia
Morality (0.850675): dbpedia | freebase

 The Age of Wonder
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Holmes , Richard (2010-03-02), The Age of Wonder, Vintage, Retrieved on 2012-01-02
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: history enlightenment science