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John Keats


John Keats was born in London in 1795 in a modest family, he attended a private school in Enfield and after his parents' death he decided to study medicine. 7 years later he gave up medicine for poetry. Keats knew a lot of important writers and artists such as Percy Bysshe Shelley. In 1818 he published Endymion, a mythological poem; this period was a very difficult one for Keats due to his poor health and his brother's death, he fell in love with Fanny Brawne, but his poverty and his health made the marriage impossible.
Nevertheless he wrote a series of important poems, such as the Eve of Saint Agnes, set in the middle ages, a series of Odes, like Ode to a Nightingale, To Autumn, Ode of Melancholy, To Psyche, Ode on a Grecian Urn, in which he explores the relations between pleasure and pain, happiness and melancholy, art and life, imagination and reality;The ballad La Belle Dame sans Merci, which shows a medieval taste; Hyperion published unfinished in 1820.
In 1820 his health gets worse and he moves to Italy in order to improve it, but he died in Rome in 1821, he was buried in a protestant cemetery like Shelley.

In his poems Keats uses the pronoun I, not referring to a single individual, rather he stands for a universal I. His poetry hardly identifies scenes and landscapes with subjective moods.
Keats's idea of imagination is twofold: first the world he represents is artificial, one that he imagines; second his poetry is a vision of what he wants human life to be, stimulated but his own experience of pain and misery.
According to Keats the poet has a “negative capability”, that is to say the capability to deny any rational certainties.
Keats's poetry contains both Romantic and Aesthetic features, in the former one can find: the negative capability, the quest after the divine, the exaltation of emotions and imagination, in the latter one can find: the exaltation of beauty and art for its own sake, Keats looked for a divine in beauty and art, because works of art are superior to human beings, since they are immortal: this idea came from his awareness of the ephemerality of human bodies, which was due to his family's poor health, which led to a pessimistic view of life. In this case beauty is no longer sublime beauty, but there is the recall of neoclassic art: due to his poor health he couldn't travel a lot, but he visited many times the British museum, in which, after colonialism, there were many Greek works of art. Beauty strikes Keats' imagination and even though it is perceived through senses it produces joy, which introduces a sort of spiritual beauty, the one of love, friendship and poetry. Art is a mirror of something ideal and it is the only divine thing one can look at.
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