John Keats

September 12, 2006


The Romantic poet of sensuous imagery
Born in London
Son of a stable keeper
Parents died before he was fifteen
Apprenticed to a surgeon for five years
Brutal attacks were made upon his verse by critics
Fell in love with Fannie Brawne b ut could not marry her because of his poverty and illness
Accused of sentimentalism and melodrama in poetry
Lover of beauty in its ideal form
Died at 26
Wrote for 4 years

“I am certain of nothing but… the truth of the imagination.”


Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget / What thou among the leaves hast never known, / The weariness, the fever, and the fret / Here, where men sit and hear each other groan; / Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs, / Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies; / Where but to think is to be full of sorrow / And leaden-eyed despairs, / Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, / Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

I cannot see what flowers are at my fee, / Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, / But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet / Wherewith the seasonable month endows / The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild; / White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine; / Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves; / And mid-May’s eldest child, / The coming must-rose, full of dewy wine, / The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
Darkline I listen; and, for many a time / I have been half in love with easeful Death, / Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, / To take into the air my quiet breath; / Now more than ever seems it rich to die, / To cease upon the midnight with no pain, / While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad / In such an ecstasy! / Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain- / To thy high requiem become a sod.
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird! / No hungry generations tread thee down; / The voice I hear this passing night was heard / In ancient days by emperor and clown: / Perhaps the self-same song that found a path / Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home, / She stood in tears a mid the alien corn; / The same that oft-time hath / Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam / Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Was it a vision, or a waking dream? / Fled is that music:- Do I wake or sleep?

-Ode to a Nightingale

Connection to Shelley’s “To a Sky-Lark”
The bird effortlessly produces poetry, the poet struggles
Form: 10 line stanzas ABAB/CDECDE
Poet is portrayed with a sense of heaviness and blankness
The bird is described in lightness and plenitude
Nightingale is heard, not seen (like Shelley’s Sky-Lark)
Sight is excluded: the mind’s eye is the eye of imagination
Human world is subject to time: everything is described in its relation to time

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; / Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d, / Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone: / Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave / Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; / Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss, / Though winning near the goal- yet, do not grieve; / She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, / For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede / Of marble men and maidens overwrought, / With forest branches and the trodden weed; / Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought / As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! / When old age shall this generation waste, / Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe / Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st, / ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ -that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

-Ode on a Grecian Urn

“on” establishes distance between speaker and subject
Comparison of human world with an artifact
Urn tells a story without speaking
Sight is the only sense evoked (in contrast with “Ode to a Nightingale)
Urn depicts static world: movement and emotion frozen in time
Speaker compares the desirability of the two
3 scenes: men chasing women (rape), two lovers, communal ritual


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