John KeatsHe was the youngest of the major Romantic poets and he also died at the early age of 25. He was born in London to a middle class family and orphaned by the age of 15. He had to find a job to support the family and was apprenticed to a surgeon. He has always known he wanted to become a poet.
He met Hunt, a well-established poet, who would help him develop his talent
In 1817 he published his first collection of poems. The next year he set off on a tour of the Lake District and Scotland.
Back to London he found his brother George dying from tuberculosis.
In 1818-19 his major works were completed.
1820: first symptoms of tuberculosis struck and Keats left Fanny Brawne, with whom he had fallen in love 2 years earlier.
He went to Italy in the hope of recovery.
Died in Rome in 1821 (his friends payed his journey)
STYLE: one cannot help but feel bewildered by Keats’s great poetic achievements in such a short lifetime. It has been said that not even Milton or Shakespeare could compare with his talent when they were his age. In his poems we can find all the distinctive qualities of Keats’s poetry:
• Sensual poetry
• The slow and reflective rhythm of his verse
• His drawing on all the senses in order to fully convey on experience
• His rich and refined language and clever use of imagery
All these elements give his poems a sensuous feel that reveal his delight at observing the world around him. He longed for beauty in life but understood that life was full of contradictions that could not always be reconciled: he felt love but could only see death; he was attracted to the imaginative world of art and dreams but at the same time was concerned with social responsibilities.
His letters are a reflection of how he experienced these conflicts in his life and how he was conscious of and deeply worried by the existence of evil in the world
Beauty: Keats believed that art could make all sorrow and pain “evaporate”, because all art is connected to beauty. The contemplation of beauty is central to his poetry: particularly the beauty of the world around him.
But it was the spiritual quality which he found in beauty, beauty could reveal the essential truth of things and for Keats beauty is equal to truth. In one of his GREAT ODES: ODE ON A GRECIAN URN he wrote “beauty is truth, truth is beauty”. Beauty is a form of knowledge.
Negative Capability: The artist is someone who can transform any subject matter into an aesthetic form that appeals to our “sense of beauty”. The poet’s main quality was “negative capability, that is, when a man is capable of living in uncertainties, mysteries and doubts without having to search for fact or reason”. It is the capacity of the artist not to “explain” but to explore the mysteries of life. This quality allowed the poet to deny his real “self”.
Imagination: if a poet is able to adopt a “negative” approach towards his subject then his inspiration is free to carry his imagination to a heightened (accresciuta) perception of reality which Keats called “Truth”. This truth can be seen as a revelation, which remains intact even after the thought which created it have disappeared because the source of inspiration will always remain. He is considered the forerunner to the pre-Raphaelites and the Aesthethic Movement, a movement which chose the motto “Art for Art’s sake” as its credo.
La Belle Dame Sans Merci 1819 (poem)
The beautiful woman without pity
The speaker of the poem comes across a “knight at arms” alone, and apparently dying, in a field somewhere. He asks him what’s going on, and the knight’s answer takes up the rest of the poem.
The knight says that he met a beautiful fairy lady in the fields. He started hanging out with her, making her flower garlands for her, letting her ride on his horse, and generally flirting like knights do.
Finally, she invited him back to her fairy cave. After they were kissing and cuddling amorously, she “lulled” him to sleep, and he had a nightmare about all the knights, kings and princes that the woman had previously seduced – they were all dead.
It has 4 lines in every stanza.
It starts with a rethorical question.