John Keats’s Life
John Keats was a great English poet, and one of the youngest poets of the Romantic movement. He was born in Moorefield, London in 1795. When he was just 8 years old, his father, Thomas Keats, died. His mother, Frances Jennings Keats, later succumbed to tuberculosis when John was 14. These tragic circumstances had a profound impact on his mind, and they brought him closer to his other siblings: his brothers, Tom and George, and his sister Fanny.
Following the deaths of his parents, Keats found comfort and refuge in literature and art. A voracious reader at Enfield Academy, he developed a close association with the headmaster of the school, John Clarke, who was like a fatherly figure for the orphaned learner. He also encouraged the interest of his young disciple in art and literature.
Later, Keats left Enfield in 1810 to start his career as a surgeon. He completed his medical education, and became a certified apothecary at London hospital in 1816. Though his medical career never really took off, his devotion to art and literature never ceased. Meanwhile, he got acquainted with the publisher Leigh Hunt of The Examiner through a close friend, Cowden Clarke. He moved to Hampstead, London, in 1817, but his friendship with Hunt continued.
The beginning of year 1819 was full of ups and downs for Keats. He got discouraged due to some bad press his long poem “Endymion” received from the critics. Shortly after his move to Hampstead, the Brawne family also moved to the area. Fanny Brawne was a beautiful girl five years younger than Keats, and he fell passionately in love with her. They got engaged soon after that. During this period, he composed his famous poems “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “Ode to a Nightingale.”
Then, in February of 1820, Keats came down with symptoms of tuberculosis. Fanny nursed him as much as she could. Despite his severe illness, he tried to finish his final poems, and ultimately got outstanding reviews on his poems. However, already heartbroken and depressed, Keats gave up writing due to deteriorating health, and sailed to Italy with his friend Joseph Severn for treatment. But he did not survive and passed away on February 23, 1820. He was buried in Rome.
John Keats’s Works
Keat’s circle of friends, such as Leigh Hunt and Percy Bysshe Shelley, appreciated his poetry and supported him during tough times. Their appreciation and support combined with his reading of Edmund Spenser’s “Faerie Queene” shaped his writing style.
The themes of Keat’s works were love, beauty, joy, nature, music, and the mortality of human life. Keats published his first collections of poems in March 1817, in which he used a bold and daring writing style. This early collection earned him severe criticism from England’s prestigious publications “Quarterly Review” and “Blackwood’s Magazine.”
Keats duly took note of this criticism and developed his famous doctrine known as “Negative Capability.”This idea was a romantic ideal that permitted human beings to go beyond the contemporary social and intellectual constraints and rise above the existing norms.
In 1818, he published his second volume of poems “Endymion.” He soon followed that volume up with “Isabella,” “Lamia,” and “The Eve of St Agnes,” which was published in 1820. These collections included his great odes, and also his ambitious Romantic piece “Hyperion,” that gained its inspiration from a Greek myth.
John Keats’s Style and Popular Poems
Keats’s diction is highly connotative. His writing style is characterized by sensual imagery and contains many poetic devices such as alliteration, personification, assonance, metaphors, and consonance. All of these devices work together to create rhythm and music in his poems. His most popular poems include “Ode on Melancholy,” “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode to Autumn,” “Ode to a Nightingale,” “La Belle Dame Sans Mercy,” “Imitation of Spenser,” “Hyperion,” and “Isabella.” Among his sonnets, the most popular are “Bright Stars! Would I were steadfast as Thou Art,” “When I have Fears that I may Cease to be,” “Endymion,” “The Eve of St. Agnes,” and “Lamia.”
More About Him
Keats did not harness dramatic and narrative power necessary to present individual characters. Instead, he was gifted with lyrical power to present characters with expressive moods. Often, these moods were of pensiveness, romantic sadness, or indolence, as well as ecstatic delight, which can be observed in his great odes.