Keats was born in 1795. He has became one of the most important poet of the second generation.
When he was very young his mother died. He was a very good student and since he was a teenager he was interested in books and he was fascinated in classical literature. Then he left school and he went to work as an apprentice to a surgeon apothecary. After this period of apprenticeship he decided to devote his life to writing. He made friend with art and literature critics Haydon e Reynolds that influenced him in this period because they took him to the British museum where there were the marbles of Pantheon (known as Elgin marbles). Keats remained fascinated by these marbles.
In 1818 he wrote “Endymion”, a mythological poem. He published this poem but it was attacked by the critics. Then he wrote “Hyperion” and in the same year he met and fall in love with Fanny Brawne. In 1819 he composed most of his poems. In 1820 he went to Italy and he settled in Naples, then he moved to Rome where he died in 1821 when he was only 26. On his tombstone are engraved these words: “Here lies one whose name was written in water”.
We can distinguish three moments in his poetic production:
• I stood tip toe;
• In step and poetry;
• On first looking into Chapman’s Homer: he describes his emotion and his sensations that he felt when he read for the first time Homer translated for Chapman.
His most successful poems are lyrical poems (“Ode to a nightingale”), and his most important poem is “Ode to a Grecian urn”. He was also fascinated by the middle ages and he wrote “La belle dame sans merci”.
Features and themes of his poetry:
• Melancholy, mortality of mankind;
• Poetry was for him his only reason of life; he considered poetry the way in which he could go on living and according to him poetry could defeat death;
• Beauty that is central in Keats poetry: for this reason beauty becomes a key point and it is the only consolation in a life of sorrow. There are two different types of beauty according to Keats: physical beauty that is temporary (beauty of a woman, of a painting) and spiritual beauty that is the beauty of love, art friendship and it is eternal. This kind of beauty represented for him a source of consolation (so it is something like a moral value);
• Negative capability: the poet (according to Keats) should not rationalise, he has to live his experience without a theorization of his feelings and of his experiences. He has to transform them into poetry (without rationalisation);
• Ancient Greek art that is for him the prototype of beauty;
• Nature: Keats saw nature as a form of beauty;
• Beauty imagined that is superior than beauty perceived, so sensory perception, according to Keats, is limited compared to that you imagined;
• Middle ages: he had a great interest in the middle ages that are important because the imagination of the poet can be enriched with the legends, with the elements of Middle Ages and with the themes of medieval ballads.