5. John Keats

1. Biography

John Keats (1795-1821) is the greatest member of that group of the second generation of Romantic poets who blossomed early and died young. 

He is Romantic in his relish of sensation, his feelings for middle ages, his love for the Greek civilisation. He made all these elements very much his own. He was able to fuse the romantic passion and the cold Neo-classicism. 

Keats was born in London in 1795, he was the first of five children and he attended a private school in Enfield. After the deaths of his father and mother was apprenticed to become a surgeon in 1810. Six years later, he left the profession and started his devotion to writing verse in a beautiful sonnet ‘On first looking into Chapman’s Homer’. 

Helped by the poet Leigh Hunt, Keats became an acquaintance of the leading writers and artists of the period. In 1818 Endymion, a long and mythological poem, appeared. 

After a lot of difficulties he wrote a series of masterful poems during the following year:

The Eve of St Agnes, rich of romantic features (superstition, art, ritual and luxury);

Ode to a Nightingale, Ode on a Grecian Urn, To Autumn, Ode on Melancholy, To Psyche are great odes (Keats explores between the relations between pleasure and pain, happiness and melancholy, art and life, reality and imagination);

La Belle Dame sans Merci (taste for medieval themes and form);

Hyperion (influence of Milton in sonorous blank verse).

In 1820 Keats coughed up blood and the symptoms of consumption became evident. In 1821 he traveled to recover in Italy but he died in Rome. 

2. The Substance of his Poetry

His lyrical poems are deeply felt personal experience behind the odes of 1819. 

Moreover, the poetical personal pronoun ‘I’ doesn’t stand for a human being but for a universal one. 

The common romantic tendency to identify scenes and landscapes with subjective...

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