Title: A Thing of Beauty: the Poetry of John Keats
1 A Thing of Beauty the Poetry of John Keats
Prepared for English 2323
Dr. Brenda Cornell
2 Dates 1795-1821
Compared to the education travels and personal lives of Byron Wordsworth Coleridge and Shelley Keats experience was more limited and his education seemed more a matter of chance than plan. Although trained in medicine he gave up his studies and devoted all his energy to writing poetry.
3 Views on society politics and religion
Seems to have had no abstract programmatic interest in such subjects. His literary world was very limited but not superficial.
Brief literary career characterized by a chosen intensity and concentration of enormous talent and energy.
4 Summation of Keats Career
According to Andre Maurois biographer of Shelley and Byron a great man. . .finds himself modeled by the function he has to perform. . .of making his life a work of art at becoming what the world would have him be . . .and so acquires. . .in spite of himself and whatever may be his intrinsic worth that. . .which makes him a fine model for the artist (qtd. in Heath 991).
5 Keats own admission of his role
At 25 fully aware of his impending death he closed a letter to a friend I can scarcely bid you good-bye even in a letter. I always made an awkard bow (qtd. In Heath 991). His poems and letters were the artistic transformation of the everyday into the extraordinary. Few poets have ever been so definite about the connection between life and art.
6 Keats Outline of his Literary Career
Indulgence in Luxury (youth) poet sees himself as a protected spectator becoming aware of the possibilities of a nobler life
Compares himself to Wordsworth if human life is a large mansion of many apartments both poets have passed through the infant (thoughtless) chamber where they were intoxicated with the light and the atmosphere. . .saw nothing but pleasant wonders and thought of delaying there forever in delight (Heath 992). Poetry viewed as a means of self-exploration and fulfillment.
7 Last years of life and career
In 1816 Keats had hoped for 10 years to fulfill his poetic apprenticeship but found that he had less than 3 years to write four to live. Poems show a rapidly fast-growing intensity of concern with subject style and purpose. Poems are a way of exploring and discovering.
8 Poems of this period
Characterized by an intensity and urgency to explore dreams fantasy reality (as in The Eve of St. Agnes)
At times seems to mock his own seriousness ex. Suggests that the destructive ferocity of a gentle robin eating a worm is a smaller version of the shark attacking its prey
9 Idea of negative capability throughout Keats poetry
Even before he was aware of his deteriorating heath Keats knew that he must choose between half-knowledge or none. He praised negative capability as the poets ability to exist in uncertainties doubts and mystery without necessarily reaching for fact and reason and using that experience as subject for poetry (ex. When I Have Fears).
10 Appreciation was delayed
Contemporaries were unsympathetic and unimpressed by his poems
A century later William Butler Yeats would write
I see a school boy when I think of him
With face and nose pressed to a sweetshop window
For certainly he sank into his grave
His senses and his heart unsatisfied
And madebeing poor ailing and ignorant
Shut out from all the luxury of the world
The coarse bred son of livery stable keeper
11 Works Cited
Abrams and others. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Volume II. 7th edition. NY Norton 2000 823-828.
Heath William. Major British Poets of the Romantic Period. NY Macmillan 1973 991-998.
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