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Life Introduction of John Keats

Life Introduction of John Keats

Introduction to the Poet John Keats

John Keats was born on 29th of October, 1795, at Moorfields, London. He was the eldest son of livery stable keeper. Keats lost father at the age of nine and his mother at the age of fifteen. He attended school at Enfield. As a school boy, he was known for his high spirits, but he also showed a remarkable love for reading. At Enfield he attracted the attention of a junior master Charles Cowden Clarke who inspired him with a love of Spenser, and initiated him into poetry when he was a boy of eight. They became devoted friends.

Keats was apprenticed at fifteen to a surgeon. One day when Keats would have been listening to a surgical lecture, there came, he says, a sun-beam into the room, and with it a whole troop of creatures floating in the ray; and “I was off with them to Oberon and fairyland.” So at nineteen, he gave up his profession and began to study hard, preparatory to a literary career. Greek mythology and art were his favourite studies, and the ones from which his poetry drew most freely His first volume of poems was published in 1817 and his last in 1820. Most of these years were years of great misery to him. His consumption developed, his poetry fevered him, his embarrassments fretted him and his love-passion shook him to pieces, Hoping regain his lost health by means of a change of climate, he sailed for Italy in 1820, but it proved to be of no use to him. On the 24th of February 1821, he passed away and was buried in the Protestant Cemetery at Rome. He was only twenty-five at this time. Shelley has paid Keats his tribute of tears and adoration in his famous elegy “Adonais” Writing about John Keats Prof Jasbir Jain comments, “Keats was the youngest of the Romantic poets. Trained to be a surgeon he did not pursue surgery as a career. Instead he turned to poetry. Unlike his contemporaries, he did not receive university education but taught himself Latin and French. Keats did not know Greek but had an intuitive understanding and grasp over Greek mythology.

Keats’ earliest poem was Imitations of Spenser (1813). It has a few Spenserian stanzas only. There is nothing remarkable in this poem. It is nothing more than a mere imitation. His next work consisted of two poems—I stood tip-toe upon a little hill and sleep and Poetry. These two poems reveal his sensuousness and his delight in beauty. Sleep and poetry is important also because the poet enunciates here his poetic creed.

His friend Cowden Clarke lent him a copy of Chapman’s translation of Homer. The lliad revealed to Keats a new world of beauty, and he expressed his feelings in the sonnet. On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer, this sonnet was the fast indication of keats’s poetic genius. Two of his other great sonnets are Bright Star and when I have fears, Endymion (1818) was the first ambitious work of the young poet. It tells us the story of Endymion, the Shepherd-prince of Mount Lotmos, with whom the moon goddess Cynthia falls in love. She lures him through ‘Cloudy phantoms’ and bears away to eternal life with her. The poem is an allegory which some what obscurely represents the poet’s search for ideal beauty. It is the work of an immature genious- “The product of sensation rather than thought”. The story is indifferently told, and the descriptive passages are weak and diffuse; but the Hymn to sorrow and the Ode to Bacchus are remarkable poetic achievements of a young poet. Endymion was violently attacked in Black wood’s Magazine and the Quarterly Review, Keats being conscious of his own faults, did not take deeply to heart the attacks of his critics.

In 1818, his brother Tom died of consumption, and Keats himself fell ill and never recovered from the fever. Yet Keats genius was developing quickly, and some of the greatest poems, including the Odes were written during 1818-19.

In 1820 was published a volume of poem, containing Isabella, lamia and the Eve of St. Agnes. Isabella is based on Boccaccio’s Decameron and tells a tragic story of love. It is marked by pathos, woman and is the best construction of Keats’ narratives. The Eve of St. Agnes tells a story of love triumphing over all obstacles. It is a piece of richly decorative verse, Keats left two unfinished poems – The Eve of St. Mark and Hyperion.

Keats’s richest Jewels are his Odes. His consummate art is enshrined in his Odes in which poignancy of feeling is blended with fineness of meditative texture. Ode to Autumn is practically his last great work. In it he reaches structural harmony which is the chief trait of Hellenic art. We have only to mention his fantastic satire Cap and Bells and the dramas Catho the Great, King Stephen.

Keats, during his illness was nursed by a succession of friends, by the Hunts, the Browns and lastly by the devoted Severn. Who lived fifty-eight years after Keats’ death. Throughout his life he continued to write and draw memories of his friends Keats looked at death boldly in the face and showed wonderful courage and calmness.

Prof. Jasbir Jain, points out the quality of his poetry is vividly pictorial with his early poetry being very sensuous and voluptuous. There is in his poetry, another element which enriches it at a philosophical level-this is the quest for an enduring principle of life, be it beauty or truth. keats died too young to have been able to fully formulate his philosophical view. During the last years of his life, he went through both illness and bereavement. He nursed his ailing brother and later succumbed to the fatal disease of consumption.

Shelley and Byron were not closely connected with him and were wrong in their estimate of the man. All his close associates testify to his self-reliance and noble pride. “Praise or blame”, Keats wrote, “has but a momentary effect on the man whose love of beauty in the abstract makes him a severe critic of his own works.” A man with this kind of self-confidence could never be the weakling of Lord Byron. Keats wrote, “I shall ever consider the public as debtor to me for verses, not myself to them for admiration, which I can do without.”

Important aspects of Keats’s poetry

Most romantic of posts. Keats is in many ways the most romantic of all romantic poets. Romantic poetry aims at the complete expression of the individual as compared to classical poetry, which aims at the expression of social experience. Other romantic poets have some political or social content in their poetry. But the poetry of Keats is not a vehicle of any prophecy-any message. It is poetry for its own sake. It has no moral, political or social significance. It is, therefore, the purest poetry.

Poetry of escape-

All romantic poetry is more or less escapist. Romantic poetry presents, not the world of reality, but the world of dreams. The romantic poet seeks an escape from the hard realities of life in a world of romance and beauty. Keats is the most romantic of all poets in the sense that he is the most escapist of them all. He wants “to fade far away, dissolve and quite forget…..the weariness, the fever and the fret” or real life. He sees how men sit and hear each other groan.” How “youth grows pale, and specture-thin, and dies. “But this does not give rise to a desire to overthrow the tyrants, as it does in Shelley-nor does he think of a better world.

Love of the past-

Like all romantic poets, Keats seeks an escape in the past. His imagination is attracted by the Ancient Greeks as well as by the glory and splendors of the middle ages. Most of his poetry is devoted to the past. It is rarely that he devotes himself to the pressing problems of the present. Endymion, Hyperion and Lamia are all classical in story, though romantic in style. The Eve of St. Agnes, Isabella and La Belle Dame Sans Merci are medieval in origin. Keats thus finds an escape into the past from the oppressive realities of the present.

Romantic themes-

The themes of Keats’s poetry are romantic in their nature. Most of his poetry is devoted to the quest of beauty. Love, chivalry, adventure, pathos-these are some of the themes of his metrical romances. Another strain that runs through his poetry is the fear of death that haunted him constantly, and which finds beautiful expression in his sonnet, “When I have fears…” Another favourite theme is that disappointment in love and its desolation captured in La Belle Dame Sane Merci. Again, the rich and sensuous descriptions scattered all over his poetry are also romantic in tone.

Love of Nature-

Like all romantics, Keats loves nature and its varied charms. He has a vivid sense of colour, and he transfigures everything into beauty that he touches with “the magic hand of chance.”

The Cult of Beauty-

In nothing else is Keats as romantic as in his frank pursuit of beauty. Beauty is his Deity. Beauty for him is synonymous with Truth. A think of beauty is for him a joy for ever. Beauty is his religion. It is in this pursuit of beauty that he completely forgets himself and the world around him.


Keats poetry thus combines in itself all the qualities that distinguish a romantic poet. His poetry is the incarnation of romance, a passionate pursuit of Beauty, a complete dedication to the beauty and joy of nature.

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