Literary Analysis Of John Keats' Poetry

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John Keats was the first born of Thomas Keats and Frances Jennings on October 31st, 1795. They lived in north London in the stables called ‘Swan and Hoop’. Not many are completely sure about his early life because it was hard to track when the letters Keats wrote were written. Because his parents died, he ended up living with her grandmother, Abbey. As he was growing up she taught him to not pursue his poetic desires. Keats father didn’t believe that becoming a poet would provide enough security for his son which is why Abbey make sure he didn’t pursue that lifestyle.

Many individuals walk through a path to reach something they want to pursue, but John Keats Before Keats became a poet, he was studying to become a doctor. His first known poetry was produced while he was attending a lecture; he repeatedly wrote rhymes within his notes. But of course, he continued to continue his job and came up with his poem The Examiner. Keats experience in the field has pushed him to continue writing, it also attracted other people who had the same literary preferences as him like Benjamin Haydon, John Reynolds, and Leigh Hunt. After, Hunt mentioned Keats in one of his ‘Young Poets’ articles which encouraged him to end his medical training and pursue his poetic desires. After four years of following his dreams, he died of tuberculosis on February 23, 1821.

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Keats became a well known poet for his vivid views on his surroundings. Many of his poems include concrete imagery that thoroughly reveals his point of view. He personifies most of the objects and living things that he encounters and make them come to life for his readers. It allows many to develop a deeper understanding on his appreciation for nature itself. For example in his poem “La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad”, a knight is riding his horse in the woods as he comes across a beautiful woman and describes the features that she possesses, “I see a lily on thy brow, / With anguish moist and fever-dew, / And on thy cheeks a fading rose / Fast withereth too” (“La Belle” 9-12). As Keats writes about the knight’s admiration for the woman, he expresses it in an unsubtle way by implementing flowers. It reveals how his admiration can make something as simple as a mark on an eyebrow and the color of her cheeks become more personal.

Though Keats repeatedly includes nature in his poems, he also expresses imagery through feeling. He brings the emotion to life by comparing it to something more concrete. For example, on “Ode on Indolence,” Keats mentions how when indolence, laziness, takes up his time it seem to come and go unexpectedly; he is aware of its presence and acknowledges it, but he can’t fully comprehend its true intentions, “How is it, Shadows! That I knew ye not? / How came ye muffled in so hush a mask? / Was it a silent deep-disguised plot / To steal away, and leave without a task” (Ode on Indolence 11-14). His adoration for the state of laziness stops him from pursuing love, ambition, and poesy (poetry):

O folly! What is Love? And where is it?

And for the poor Ambition! It springs

From a man’s little heart’s short fever-fit;

For Poesy!-no,- she has not a joy-

At least for me, -so sweet as drowsy noons,

And evenings steep’d in honey’d indolence (“Ode on Indolence” 30-36)

He identifies their negative characteristics as a way to convince the reader on how much easier it is to not pursue the temptation.

Greek mythology has been around for thousands of years and Keats repeatedly incorporates the idea into his poetry. He either mentions them by name or describes their personality. For example, he wrote “Ode to Psyche”, which doesn’t just mean the human soul or spirit, but it also involves the goddess Psyche. The speaker comes across Psyche in the forest as she lays in the grass with a winged boy, “The winged boy I knew; / But who was thou, O happy, happy dove? / His Psyche true! (“Ode to Psyche” 21-23). He develops adoration for her that differs from others and he seems to praise her for it, “Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none, / Nor altar heap’d with flowers; / Nor virgin-choir to make delicious moan, no shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat” (“Ode to Psyche” 28-31).

Also, Keats references Homer, the author of The Odyssey. Homer is a Greek epic poet between the 12th and 8th century; his work has had a large impact on the Western culture (biography). Keats “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”, he directly mentions Homer’s writings and wonderful aspects of life and everything that surrounds him, “Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold, / And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;” (On First Looking 1-2). He has faced many experiences, but as he read The Odyssey, it was a discovery of a whole new world and he compares the feeling of discovering a new planet on a telescope or a new piece of and, “When a new planet swims into his ken; / or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes ‘ He star’d at the Pacific (“On First Looking” 10-12).

Though Keats doesn’t follow the same form of poetry for all his writings he does stay consistent when it comes to implementing meters. With its application it creates a rhythm that allows the poem to flow in a way the writer desires. In “You Say You Love,” the meter switches from unstressed, stressed to stressed, unstressed, “You say you love; but with a voice / Chaster than a nun’s, who singeth” (You Say You Love 1-2). Keats is implementing how someone is saying that they love him, but their actions don’t correlate. There’s a shift in emotion as the meter changes that continuously happens throughout the poem, “You say you love but then your lips / Coral tinted teach no blisses” (You Say You Love 11-12). But of course, this doesn’t occur in all of his poems. Many of them stay in unstressed and stressed meter. For example in “To Autumn”, “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, / Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun” (“To Autumn” 1-2) and Keats utilizes it again in “When I Have Fears that I May Cease to Be”, “Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance / And I think that I may never leave a trace (When I have 6-7). It seems that it’s almost rare for him to switch meters in the middle of a poem.

The deep adoration for anything around him is revealed in Keats poetry. His works consist mostly of Ode’s, which means that he praises that subject, no matter what kind of connotation it brings. For example many would perceive melancholiness and indolence to be a negative thing, but Keats seem to embrace the idea. In “Ode on Melancholy,” he describes the feeling to be something that unexpectedly takes over, but he views it as something beautiful by involving nature:

But when the melancholy fit shall fall

Sudden from the heaven like a weeping cloud,

That fosters the droop-head flowers all,

And hides the green hill in an April shroud

Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,

Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave (“Ode on Melancholy” 13-17)

But of course, not all his ode’s praise a negative emotion. In “Ode to a Nightingale,” he simply talks about the peacefulness and effect nightingale’s create for individuals who listen to its singing voice, “Darking 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 (Ode to a Nightingale 50-53). By evaluating his ode’s, the reader can quickly identify the adoration he has obtained for a subject. He can take something full of simplicity and create it into something larger that will create a connection with his audience.

When it comes to Keats intentions, they are visible in his poetry. For example, his deepest desires and concerns seem to be that he will never find love or achieve fame before he passes. He clearly depicts this in “When I have Fears that I May Cease to Be” because he thinks without either, he will sink into nothingness. But of course, he doesn’t just long for the idea, Keats wants it to be something powerful and extravagant, not something plain, “When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face, / Huge cloudy symbols of high romance / And think that I may never live to trace (“When I have Fears that I May Cease to Be” 5-7).

Additionally, Keats largely focused on his writings, but he has also developed a relationship with Fanny, which he was unofficially engaged to. He wanted to be known as one of the best and he tried everything he can to achieve that goal. The admiration from others towards his work was largely important to him because he did desire fame. There was perseverance within him and his talent of observation has assisted him. After his death was when he acquired the attention that he craves. Many adored the moments he wrote about, many even created paintings based on his ideas. All of Keats dreams have come true and his style of poetry has created an impact.


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