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Byron, Shelley and Keats

Byron, Shelley and Keats were the members of the second generation of Romantic poets, they blossomed (fiorire) early and both of them died very young, all far from England. Shelley was expelled by the university and he had to leave England, because he was revolutionary, he was against everything. He lived for a long time in Italy where he went in voluntary exile and he died in Livorno during a storm. Byron was very famous for his beauty and above all because he was involved in the revolution, in fact he died in Greece during the war of independence.
Keats was perhaps the greatest member of the group of poets. He loves Middle Ages and the Greek civilisation; he was able to fuse the romantic passion and the Neo-classicism, just as Ugo Foscolo did in "Le Grazie". He was interested in classical art and Elizabethan literature, we can see it for example with the text "On first Looking into Chapman's Homer", he was the writer who had translated the "Iliade" in English.
He was born in London. He didn't come from a rich family, is father was a stable keeper. He was always interested in literature, but at the age of 14 he passed his exams to become a surgeon (surgeon didn't have a degree, they weren't considered very well), because he had to earn the money to get by. He had a lot of death in his family, he lost his father, who is killed in a riding accident), his mother and his brother because of tubercolosis and he got ill, too. He travelled to Italy in order to recover his health, but he died in Rome.


Keats expresses his idea on poetry in many letters to friends, to relatives. In this letter, send to the friend Richard Woodhouse, he makes an analysis of his poetry and he speaks about the rule of the poet. Keats it's very different from Wordsworth because he doesn't appear in his poem, nor his feelings. He refuses to interfere with the description and so their lyrical poems aren't fragments of autobiography, like the lyrics of Byron and Shelley. Nature is really the protagonist. In fact in the letter he tells that poets have no self, no identity, only the Sun, the Moon, the Sea and Men and Women are poetical and an identity. The poet is pervaded by nature, on the contrary in Wordsworth the nature was the mirror of his feelings.
Keats was truly a student of art. It's very important because he doesn't think much about technique when he writes. The contemplation of beauty, which is a synonym of art, is the central theme of Keats' poetry, take from the Classical world; he re-creates, re-interpreted and makes alive an other time the world of Greek. For Keats beauty and truth are the only type of knowledge, as he affirms in the two last lines of the poem "Ode on a Grecian urn".


Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape 5
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? 10

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 15
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! 20

Ah, happy, happy boughs! That cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love! 25
For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue. 30

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,

And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore, 35
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e’er return. 40

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! 45
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. 50
Tu, ancora inviolata sposa della quiete!
Figlia adottiva del tempo lento e del silenzio,
Narratrice delle selve, tu che una favola fiorita
Racconti, più dolce dei miei versi,
Quale intarsiata leggenda di foglie pervade
La tua forma, sono dei o mortali,
O entrambi, insieme, a Tempe o in Arcadia?
E che uomini sono? Che dei? E le fanciulle ritrose?
Qual è la folle ricerca? E la fuga tentata?
E i flauti, e i cembali? Quale estasi selvaggia?
Sì, le melodie ascoltate sono dolci, ma più dolci
Ancora son quelle inascoltate. Su, flauti lievi,
Continuate, ma non per l'udito; preziosamente
Suonate per lo spirito arie senza suono.
E tu, giovane, bello, non potrai mai finire
Il tuo canto sotto quegli alberi che mai saranno spogli;
E tu, amante audace, non potrai mai baciare

Lei che ti è così vicino; ma non lamentarti
Se la gioia ti sfugge: lei non potrà mai fuggire,
E tu l'amerai per sempre, per sempre così bella.
Ah rami, rami felici! Non saranno mai sparse
Le vostre foglie, e mai diranno addio alla Primavera;
E felice anche te, musico mai stanco,
Che sempre e sempre nuovi canti avrai;
Ma più felice te, amore più felice,
Per sempre caldo e ancora da godere
Per sempre ansimante, giovane in eterno.
Superiori siete a ogni vivente passione umana
Che il cuore addolorato lascia e sazio,
La fronte in fiamme, secca la lingua.
E chi siete voi, che andate al sacrificio?
Verso quale verde altare, sacerdote misterioso,
Conduci la giovenca muggente, i fianchi
Morbidi coperti da ghirlande?
E quale paese sul mare, o sul fiume,
O inerpicato tra la pace dei monti
Ha mai lasciato questa gente in questo sacro mattino?
Silenziose, o paese, le tue strade saranno per sempre,
E mai nessuno tornerà a dire
Perché sei stato abbandonato.
O forma Attica! Posa leggiadra! Con un ricamo
Di uomini e fanciulle nel marmo,
Coi rami della foresta e le erbe calpestate -
Tu, forma silenziosa, come l'eternità
Tormenti e spezzi la nostra ragione: fredda Pastorale!
Ancora tu ci sarai, eterna, tra nuovi dolori
Non più nostri, amica all'uomo, cui dirai
"Bellezza è verità, verità bellezza," - questo solo
Sulla terra sapete, ed è quanto basta.

Rhyme scheme: AB AB CDE DCE
The poem is made up of 5 stanzas with 10 lines. The first 4 lines introduce the deal of the stanza and the last 6 explain it (but it isn't a fixed form). The poem tells about a Greek urn, in fact in that period there were Grecian rediscoveries with a lot of archaeology expeditions; archaeologists found for example the Parthenon in Athens.

It's an ode which is a classical form of poetry, usually not use to tell about love affair. It hasn't a fixed form, the only things that are typical are the elevated tone and the use of apostrophe (or vocative), to speak directly to the reader (in this case to the urn, because the poet speaks to it).
line 1: thou = you
unravish'd bride = sposa inviolata
line 2: foster-child = only child
line 3: canst = can
line 4: tale = novel, story
line 5: leaf-fring'd = contornato
shape = ricopre la tua forma
line 8: maidens loth = vergini restie
line 9: mad pursuit = folle proposito
line 10: pipes = flauti
timbrels = tamburelli
line 12: ye = you
line 13: more endear'd = più care
line 14: ditties = songs
tone = music
line 15: beneath = under
line 16: nor ever = nemmeno
bare = spogli
line 18: near the goal = meta
do not grieve = non addolararti
line 19: fade = avvizzire
hast = have
bliss = grande gioia
line 21: boughs = rami
shed = perdere
line 22: nor ever…adieu = né dire mai addio alla Primavera
line 23: unwearied = never tired
line 27: panting = anelante
line 29: high-sorrowful = pieno di pena
cloy'd = afflitto
line 30: parching tongue = lingua asciutta
line 33: heifer = giovenca
lowing = che muggisce
line 34: flanks = fianchi
garlands drest = adorni di ghirlande
line 41: fair attitude = leggiadra forma
with brede = con fregio
line 42: overwrought = lavorata
line 43: trodden weed = erba calpestata
line 44: dost = do
tease…thought = ci sconcerti
line 48: in midst…ours = in mezzo a dolori diversi dai nostri
say'st = say

First, second and third stanzas: The "still" in the first line can have two meanings: "ancora", so the idea of not yet, or "ferma" so the idea of stopping time, which are the two main theme of the poem.
“thou...bride of quietness...foster-child...sylvan historian”: it's an apostrophe direct to the urn. Bride of quietness and foster-child of silence are opposite to the third one, sylvan historian, because the firsts are silent while a historian speaks, he tell about events. Both of the are people, so he makes the urn alive.
Then he emphasises the power of the urn, of art, because he tells that the urn is able to tells stories better than him, who is a poet. He makes a lot of rhetorical questions and he starts to describe one side of the urn. There are a lot of people in this side: some Gods and some young boys and girls, they are in a forest (in fact there are also some trees) and someone is playing pipes and timbrels, some boy is trying to kiss a girl.
In lines 11-12 there is one of the most important theme of the Romantic poetry. There is a PARADOX "heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter…". The poet describes the melodies as very sweet, but those that he can't heard are sweeter, so he means that reality is inferior than the world of imagination (the melodies that I imagine are sweeter). In the third stanza he tells that you will never be tired, the boy hasn't to stop playing, because the songs are forever new and the time will never go by, also for trees will always be spring.
Then he describes a boy that wants to kiss a girl and he is about to do that. Keats explains that this is the best moment, because when you get it, it's already part of your life and so the passion and the desire are gone away, you don't long for it, because you have already reach what you want.
Fourth stanza: He tells about an other part of the urn. There is a sacrifice of a heifer and all people go to see it near the green altar. He describes the town desolate because all the citizen are there to see the sacrifice.
Fifth stanza: "Attic shape…Fair attitude…Cold Pastoral": other apostrophe to the urn. Now he uses 3 expressions connected with art, so the urn isn't considered alive.
There is the conclusion of the poem and the emphasis of art. He tells that when that generation will die, the urn will remain forever. Eternity of art, it's a Shakespearean echo. Art is described as "a friend to man", he can help man, for two reasons: firstly because something is eternal, while all the human being will die, and so it helps man because with art people can leave memories, and secondly because it gives us positive feelings, we can forget our sufferings and our problems.
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty" = Art creates a world which is truer than the material world. We have the knowledge through the esthetical appearance. The artist knows the truth, not the scientists, because he concentrate only in material elements. Art is more important, it's superior than any other human experience, also because it's able to stop time.
This idea will be very important later on , with Oscar Wilde.
Theme: aspiration to the infinitive (similar to Leopardi); immortality of art; art is beauty and vice versa.


Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, 5
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core,
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease, 10
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; 15
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook; 20
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, 25
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 30
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Rhyme scheme: ABABCDEDCCE
This is an ode, it hasn't a fixed form, in fact in the "Ode on a Grecian urn" the stanzas are 5 made up of 10 lines, while now there are 3 stanzas made up of 11 lines.

line 1: mists = foschie line 16: on a half-reap'd furrow = sopra un solco mietuto
mellow fruitfulness = dolce fecondità per metà
line 2: close bosom-friend = amico del cuore line 17: drows'd…poppies = reso sonnolento per il
line 3: to load…bless = per caricare e benedire profumo dei papaveri
line 4: the vines = piante hook = falce
round thatch-eves run = corrono line 18: swath = falciata
intorno alle grondaie twined = intrecciati
line 5: bend with apples = piegare sotto il peso line 19: gleaner = spigolatrice
moss'd = muscosi line 20: laden = carica
line 6: core = parte centrale line 21: cyder-press = pressa da mele
line 7: to swell the gourd = gonfiare la zucca line 22: oozings = stille
plump = riempire line 25: barred = striate
the hazel shells = gusci delle nocciole clouds…day = make the sky red
line 8: kernel = nocciolo line 26: stubble-plains = campi di stoppie
set budding = per fare sbocciare hue = tinta
line 10: never cease = non finiscono line 27: waiful = lamentoso
line 11: o'er-brimm'd = riempito oltre misura gnats = moscerini
clammy cells = celle appiccicaticce line 28: borne aloft = portati in alto
line 12: amid thy store = fra la tua ricchezza line 30: bleat = belano
line 13: seeks abroad = guarda lontano from hilly bourn = dal limite della collina
line 14: careless = senza preoccupazioni line 31: hedge-crickets = grilli di siepe
granary floor = aia treble soft = dolce voce
line 15: hair soft-lifted by the…wind = vento che line 32: garden-croft = orticello
scompiglia i capelli line 33: twitter = cinguettano
winnowing = che vaglia = che separa il grano

1. Autumn normally is the synonym of rain, shorter days, cold and so it's linked with negative feelings. In the poem it's the opposite: it's seen with a positive meaning, it isn't considered a dark, dead season (for example line 1 "mellow fruitfulness"). All the words which define autumn belong to the semantic area of ripeness (full life-maturità). Lines 10-11= Autumn is seen as the prolongation of summer (bees are puzzled) and this idea is reinforced by the sound of consonants in the stanzas (“plosive” sounds, like m, n, p, t, b, d, which are pronounced like an explosion).
2. In the second stanza there is a personification of Autumn, seen like a farmer in his harvest. He’s not busy, he’s resting and this is a positive thing because it means that he has worked hard. Words used = technical ones, associated with farm life.
3. The poet focuses his attention on the sounds he hears and on the animals that produce these sounds. When he speaks about the sounds he underlines that they are sounds of life, like spring’s ones.
The use of language = it's a sensual language, because it involves the senses:
a) SIGHT - it’s in all the poems and it’s when you give an image by your poem;
b) TOUCH - “clammy cells”;
c) EARING - all the last stanza (“red-breast”), songs (he tells that the sound of Autumn isn't less important than the songs of Spring), wailful choir;
d) SMELL - “fume of poppies”;
e) TASTE - “sweet kernel”.

The ode "To Autumn" is very similar to the "Ode on a Grecian urn", one tells about a work of art while the other about country life. But the topics are similar: the activities of the farmer are stopped as the movements of the boys and girls painting on the urn. Both of them can stop time (he describes Autumn and Summer as we are the same thing, time is stopped) in a moment of perfection and ecstasy.
In Keats’ opinion the passing of time brings suffering (as in his real life, because he was ill and so more the time passed more he felt worse).
Difference between Keats and Wordsworth: Wordsworth believed that natural elements weren’t the real protagonists which was the poet himself (nature = mirror of his feelings); on the contrary Keats didn’t speak about himself and nature was the real protagonist.

Romanticism was an European phenomenon. It started firstly in Germany with the "Sturm und Drang" in 1798. In the same year began the English romanticism when Wordsworth and Coleridge published the "Lyrical Ballads" which is considered to be the Manifesto of English Romantic poetry. Only after some years we saw this kind of literature also in France with the work "De l'Allemagne" by M.me De Staël and in Italy in 1816 with the "Lettera semiseria" by Giovanni Berchet. It wasn't a homogeneous movement and nobody didn't find a school. It was very famous the novel but it's in poetry that we found the most important theme of this age.

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