He died very young. All of his family died before him. The whole family was ill of tuberculosis. This determined his particular approach to life. It was considered as a transient moment. The difficulty of his condition was in fact reflected in his works.
His short life was almost all dedicated to poetry.
He’s a very different romantic poet from the previous ones: he belongs to the second generation of romantic poets. They were called the young dyers. The great difference between the first and the second relies on the fact that the first were the bringer of the message of romantic poetry, in fact W. and C. were called Lake Poets, it’s a reference to where they used to live but also to the fact that they used to live in contact with nature.
They introduced a new poetic diction (new language, respect for nature, …). They had already been influenced by the ideals of the French Rev, but they got disillusioned as the story went on the restoration started over again. They were less dedicated to nature in meaning that they were not interested in a neo-platonic view of nature, they didn’t see god’s image in nature, the beauty of creation, but they tended to interpret nature as a message.
The second generation tended to detach by this idea of seeing god in nature, seeing a divine presence in it. Shelley saw in nature the possibility to gather those forces of the wind and exploit them against the authority, monarchy, tyranny. He was a great political rebel, as Byron. He threw himself into the real battle in fact he died very soon. They both interpreted the idea of rebellion, of the outcast.
Outsider is someone who willingly rebels; they rebelled against the system and they were lonely rebels, but this willing breaking of the rules of their society made them outcasts, they could no longer live in England. After marrying Mary Shelley they started touring through Europe he started being considered an outsider and had to move to Europe. They went to live in Italy. He died in Lerici.
His friend Byron celebrated him after dying.
Byron was banned by the English society because he had a love affair with his step-sister therefore he decided to leave for liberty.
To this generation belongs Keats, but he was no rebel. He moved the ideals of the Romantic Movement to other topics, not only the celebration of a natural landscape, but also what he called the human nature. This is a sort of shifting the typical romantic topic leaving that aside to focus on the human nature which is finer, that means more interesting, deeper to analyse.
“Scenery is fine, but human nature is finer”.
Transience of human nature: this is strongly related to beauty.
His most important works
- Endymion (1818), a very long poem on the themes of mythology, indeed this marks the difference between Keats and other romantic poets, he’s the most neoclassical poet in the Romantic Movement. His attitude and his interest in dealing with love and passion is typical neoclassical.
- The Eve of St Agnes: written in Spenserian stanzas.
- Composed in 1819 the odes are his most peculiar works, his truest romantic production. He’s not fully romantic, he’s both neoclassical and romantic. He deals with an abstract topic in very figurative words. Ode to a Nightingal, Ode on a Grecian Urn, To Autumn, Ode on Melancholy, To Psyche.
- La Belle Dame sans Merci: the recurring theme is love and death. The enjoyment of the passion are still the fundamental topic of his work.
- Hyperion was published unfinished because he died in 1821.
He was acknowledged by later generations more than by the most relevant author of the second generation of romantic poets, he was more influential than Shelley and Byron because their rebellion confined themselves in the second generation itself.
Two central themes of his poetry
- Contemplation of beauty (ideal content)
He got to appreciate beauty because he knew that he was going to die probably. Enjoying passions was not easy, it was not only physical, but also a spiritual enjoyment; this was not so easy in those times. He tended to do that completely.
The experience is physical because you perceive nature through your senses, but Keats is the romantic who elevate his physical sense into a spiritual dimension. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”. In this statement he expresses all his tension to an enjoyment that might not end. The only thing that could never end is a thing of beauty.
Beauty was in this idea the most divine, philosophical and physical element.
Therefore things of beauty were works of art.
”Art for Art’s Sake”. Arte fine a se stessa. Art, according to Keats, is the most significant element of beauty, it’s the ultimate concept of beauty, and it contains all it needs. Beauty is both form and content, a content of art itself. It should be appreciated for itself, for the sake. Art has no moral message. It elevates and brings a joy of senses.
Concrete and spiritual
He developed the impossibility of real enjoyment of passion.
This motto would influence the last movements of the late 19th century called the Aesthetes
A typical characteristic of romantic poetry was the lyrical I, the subjective attitude, embodied by the use of lyrical I.
Keats used the lyrical I, he very frequently is inside the poem, but this lyrical I is very different from the previous one, meaning that whenever he introduced situations he has a universal tone. His lyrical I has more a universal dimension of the typical romantic one.
It refers to human passion, not only his own ones. He is a representative of people.
The role of imagination
His personal experience is part of his imagination, because his suffering experiences leads him to the use of his imagination.
Ultima parte: streiben?
It’s the capability of the poet to become the object of observation.
The object represents a moment of total absorption.
It is almost if he fuses with the object being observed and contemplated.
Capability of identifying with the object: the poet loses his personality and conscience of himself because he’s totally absorbed in the mystery of the object. He’s no longer the lyrical I.
This author continuously contemplates beauty, it has a superior dimension for him; in fact, he says he can never become aware of anything but through its beauty, therefore beauty attracts the poet teaching him a message. The concept of beauty is such divine that it can only be contemplated because reason cannot understand the mystery of beauty.
The research for beauty was a continuous streben. Beauty is a permanent presence in his life, he used to think.
This contemplation of beauty had both an ideal content and a very real dimension.
- Transience of life (concreteness of life experience): life flies away so it’s very important to fix life in very clear moments.
Concreteness of his experience: the only way to flee his terrible experience was beauty.
Beauty must be thought both concretely and abstractedly. It is such a superior ideal dimension that dregs the poet in an extremely ideal and spiritual dimension.
The first apprehension of beauty takes place through senses (concreteness of experience) but at the same time that dimension of beauty is so high and superior to any concreteness that determines the superior spirit of the poet.
beauty is a form that once apprehended (not understood because it’s not understandable) in its depth, produces apprehension of truth, because it is ideal and elevates man into the high sphere of truth.
To him truth means beauty, an elevated form that can only be attained.
It is an elevated dimension that produces truth.
TRUTH and BEAUTY are inseparable experiences in Keats: in fact, the form (beauty) becomes the content itself of truth: “Truth is beauty, beauty is truth”.
This form of beauty is also a content of beauty and it just needs to be contemplated, there’s no explanation.
The poet acknowledges in a form of beauty a superiority that needs no LOGICAL or REASONABLE EXPLANATION but it just needs to be contemplated.
Therefore the only form of knowledge we should need is this apprehension of beauty.
Truth is like a dogma and as such it emanates itself.
2.The objects of beauty can be beauty for a while but they are subjected to the transience of life, to death, which cannot be escaped. Therefore the highest knowledge and beauty is identified in a form of art.
The paradox that lives inside this beauty is that this product of art is a product of men, any form of art is produced by man, by mortal hands.
Art is therefore the sum of our knowledge because it is immortal. Because it is not transience, it is the highest form of knowledge.
Through his own art the artist is made immortal.
It can only be perceived deeply, not explained with logic and reason.
Keats paradoxically resources immortality in objects created by man.
He would produce immortal poetry, he did not know he would, but actually he did. Art celebrated in his poetry is an immortal object.
These two dimension keep emerging over and over again in his poetry. They interweave each other and come to surface
In nature beauty is embodied in works of art and its first apprehension is through senses, which are therefore the fundamental channel for experience, and again we see the rejection of apprehending and learning through reason in romantic poetry rejection of reason and logical abilities.
Through senses elevation to this concept of beauty is possible.
In his poetry, his attitude and language are very delicate and intimate than other poets: for example the world he creates results cause he insisted in the beauty of colours, details, he insists in the form of a flower for example, rather than on the form of leafs (ITA: foglie) to make the reader flee away too. In order to gather a dimension of completely abstractedness from reality. It becomes a sort of idylls: from it death and decay (ITA: decadimento) of human life are banned. It’s a flight for the poet.
Shades of colours, forms of flowers and particular beauty of works of art creates this flight from reality: it forms a sort of corner of togetherness and intimacy where the poet can find a sort of comfort and healing for his soul. He forms a world of his own it’s delicate and intimate.
Transience of life is a sorrowful feeling for him. The acquisition of this truth is very sorrowful for him. Appreciating beauty generates in the poet melancholy for its decade: he recognises that in the concept of beauty lies its decay. Beauty lasts very shortly if it’s a natural beauty. The appreciation of beauty can last very few seconds, the time of a poem, because the object is transient as much as he himself.
Beauty of art is instead immortal. Art id definitely not living.
Therefore appreciating beauty in a natural form generates melancholy in him.
The dimension of a very early death makes his feelings even more extreme felt to extremity.
Death and daily sarrow: this daily experience committed (ITA: impegnare) him in the research for something permanent and unchanging and he found it in art. Yet this is definitely illusory, because he can appreciate it for a limited period of time.
This makes beauty an ideal element, therefore divine.
In his odes the poet tricks himself into the idea of permanence of art and poetry, but he cannot avoid perceiving this as illusory and thus producing more suffering for unavoidable laws of life.
This shifts the attention from natural landscapes to human nature and condition.
“Art for art’s sake”
Art is the most divine dimension on Earth because it is concrete, because we experience art, and at the same time divine because we cannot explain it. Therefore it should remain untouched, unviolated.
Keats said that art is only for itself, it cannot have a message, and it’s both concrete and illogically divine.
We should not try to find any further message in art, it’s beautiful and as such we have to appreciate it. Difference from previous poets.