John Keats By: Alexandria Campbell DE English Literature
Born on October 31, 1795 in London, John Keats was the oldest of four children. Keats’s father died when Keats was eight, and his mother died six years later of Tuberculosis. His maternal grandmother appointed London merchants, Richard Abbey and John Rowland Sandell. Abbey was a prosperous tea broker, who assumed most of the responsibility of Keats and his siblings. At the age of fifteen, Abbey withdrew Keats from the Clarke School, Enfield, to apprentice with an apothecary-surgeon and study medicine in a London hospital. By 1816 Keats became a licensed apothecary, but never practiced the profession. Instead, he chose to write poetry.
It was around this time that Keats met Leigh Hunt, one of the influential editors of the Examiner, who published “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” and “O Solitude”. As well as publishing his sonnets, Hunt introduced Keats to a circle of literary men, such as Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Wordsworth. The influence of the group allowed Keats to publish his first volume, Poems by John Keats, in 1817. While Shelley was fond of Keats, the feeling was not mutual. Keats did not follow Shelley’s advice on developing a more substantial body of work, which caused two of the most influential critical magazines, the Quarterly Review and Blackwood’s Magazine, to attack the collection known as Endymion. Blackwood declared that it was nonsense and told Keats to give up poetry. Shelley recognized Keats’s genius, and even though he did not like Endymion, he wrote a favorable review for Keats that was never published. He stressed the effect of the criticism had on Keats’s health which was declining over the following years because of his broken spirit.
In 1818, Keats cared for his brother, Tom, who suffered from Tuberculosis. While doing so he met Fanny Brawne, whom he eventually fell in love with. By the autumn of 1819, after the death of his brother, Keats contracted Tuberculosis as well, and he felt by the following February that his death was already creeping towards him. He referred to his present as his “posthumous existence”. He continued to write to Fanny, and when he was unable to bear to write to her directly, he wrote to her mother. Unfortunately, his literary ambitions and his failing health made it impossible for the two of them to marry. Under his doctor’s recommendation, Keats went with his friend, Joseph Severn, to seek a warmer climate for the winter in Rome. He passed on February 23, 1821 at the age of twenty-five and was buried in the Protestant cemetery.
Keats is known as one of the most influential poets of the Romantic Era. His unique style that put emphasis on sensual description, and his lavishing and over flowing emotion made his poems spectacular. He is able to draw descriptions from his own mind, and from the various sources around him. Some such sources are his undying love for Fanny Brawne, and his despair over the death of his brother, Tom. His overwhelming desire to achieve perfection with his poems is shown through his constant experiments with new and different types of poems. His best works come from “The Great Odes” from 1819, where he handles complex themes and elaborate details.
Bright Star Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art-- Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night And watching, with eternal lids apart, Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite, The moving waters at their priestlike task Of pure ablution round earth's human shores, Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask Of snow upon the mountains and the moors-- No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable, Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast, To feel for ever its soft fall and swell, Awake for ever in a sweet unrest, Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath, And so live ever--or else swoon to death.
Fragment: Modern Love And what is love? It is a doll dress'd up For idleness to cosset, nurse, and dandle; A thing of soft misnomers, so divine That silly youth doth think to make itself Divine by loving, and so goes on Yawning and doting a whole summer long, Till Miss's comb is made a perfect tiara, And common Wellingtons turn Romeo boots; Then Cleopatra lives at number seven, And Antony resides in Brunswick Square. Fools! if some passions high have warm'd the world, If Queens and Soldiers have play'd deep for hearts, It is no reason why such agonies Should be more common than the growth of weeds. Fools! make me whole again that weighty pearl The Queen of Egypt melted, and I'll say That ye may love in spite of beaver hats.
To A Friend Who Sent Me Some Roses As late I rambled in the happy fields, What time the skylark shakes the tremulous dew From his lush clover covert; -when anew Adventurous knights take up their dinted shields; I saw the sweetest flower wild nature yields, A fresh-blown musk-rose; ’twas the first that threw Its sweets upon the summer: graceful it grew As is the wand that Queen Titania wields. And, as I feasted on its fragrancy, I thought the garden-rose it far excelled; But when, O Wells! thy roses came to me, My sense with their deliciousness was spelled: Soft voices had they, that with tender plea Whispered of peace, and truth, and friendliness unquelled.
A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness; but still will keep A bower quiet for us, and a sleep Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing A flowery band to bind us to the earth, Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth Of noble natures, of the gloomy days, Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darken’d ways Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all, Some shape of beauty moves away the pall From our dark spirits…