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About this poet

English Romantic poet John Keats was born on October 31, 1795, in London. The oldest of four children, he lost both his parents at a young age. His father, a livery-stable keeper, died when Keats was eight; his mother died of tuberculosis six years later. After his mother's death, Keats's maternal grandmother appointed two London merchants, Richard Abbey and John Rowland Sandell, as guardians. Abbey, a prosperous tea broker, assumed the bulk of this responsibility, while Sandell played only a minor role. When Keats was fifteen, Abbey withdrew him from the Clarke School, Enfield, to apprentice with an apothecary-surgeon and study medicine in a London hospital. In 1816 Keats became a licensed apothecary, but he never practiced his profession, deciding instead to write poetry.

Around this time, Keats met Leigh Hunt, an influential editor of the Examiner, who published his sonnets "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" and "O Solitude." Hunt also introduced Keats to a circle of literary men, including the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Wordsworth. The group's influence enabled Keats to see his first volume, Poems by John Keats, published in 1817. Shelley, who was fond of Keats, had advised him to develop a more substantial body of work before publishing it. Keats, who was not as fond of Shelley, did not follow his advice. Endymion, a four-thousand-line erotic/allegorical romance based on the Greek myth of the same name, appeared the following year. Two of the most influential critical magazines of the time, the Quarterly Review and Blackwood's Magazine, attacked the collection. Calling the romantic verse of Hunt's literary circle "the Cockney school of poetry," Blackwood's declared Endymion to be nonsense and recommended that Keats give up poetry. Shelley, who privately disliked Endymion but recognized Keats's genius, wrote a more favorable review, but it was never published. Shelley also exaggerated the effect that the criticism had on Keats, attributing his declining health over the following years to a spirit broken by the negative reviews.

Keats spent the summer of 1818 on a walking tour in Northern England and Scotland, returning home to care for his brother, Tom, who suffered from tuberculosis. While nursing his brother, Keats met and fell in love with a woman named Fanny Brawne. Writing some of his finest poetry between 1818 and 1819, Keats mainly worked on "Hyperion," a Miltonic blank-verse epic of the Greek creation myth. He stopped writing "Hyperion" upon the death of his brother, after completing only a small portion, but in late 1819 he returned to the piece and rewrote it as "The Fall of Hyperion" (unpublished until 1856). That same autumn Keats contracted tuberculosis, and by the following February he felt that death was already upon him, referring to the present as his "posthumous existence."

In July 1820, he published his third and best volume of poetry, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems. The three title poems, dealing with mythical and legendary themes of ancient, medieval, and Renaissance times, are rich in imagery and phrasing. The volume also contains the unfinished "Hyperion," and three poems considered among the finest in the English language, "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "Ode on Melancholy," and "Ode to a Nightingale." The book received enthusiastic praise from Hunt, Shelley, Charles Lamb, and others, and in August, Frances Jeffrey, influential editor of the Edinburgh Review, wrote a review praising both the new book and Endymion.

The fragment "Hyperion" was considered by Keats's contemporaries to be his greatest achievement, but by that time he had reached an advanced stage of his disease and was too ill to be encouraged. He continued a correspondence with Fanny Brawne and—when he could no longer bear to write to her directly—her mother, but his failing health and his literary ambitions prevented their getting married. Under his doctor's orders to seek a warm climate for the winter, Keats went to Rome with his friend, the painter Joseph Severn. He died there on February 23, 1821, at the age of twenty-five, and was buried in the Protestant cemetery.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

The Poems of John Keats (1978)
The Poems of John Keats (1970)
The Poems of John Keats (1970)
Collections: The Poetical Works of Coleridge, Shelley, and Keats (1831)
Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems (1820)
Endymion: A Poetic Romance (1818)
Poems (1817)

Prose

Letters of John Keats: A New Selection (1970)
The Letters of John Keats (1958)
Life, Letters, and Literary Remains of John Keats (1848)

Drama

Otho The Great: A Dramatic Fragment (1819)
King Stephen: A Dramatic Fragment (1819)
 

To Fanny

John Keats, 1795 - 1821
Physician Nature! let my spirit blood!
   O ease my heart of verse and let me rest;
Throw me upon thy tripod, till the flood
   Of stifling numbers ebbs from my full breast.
A theme! a theme! Great Nature! give a theme;
         Let me begin my dream.
I come—I see thee, as thou standest there,
Beckon me out into the wintry air.

Ah! dearest love, sweet home of all my fears
   And hopes and joys and panting miseries,—
To-night, if I may guess, thy beauty wears
         A smile of such delight,
         As brilliant and as bright,
   As when with ravished, aching, vassal eyes,
         Lost in a soft amaze,
         I gaze, I gaze!

Who now, with greedy looks, eats up my feast?
   What stare outfaces now my silver moon!
Ah! keep that hand unravished at the least;
         Let, let the amorous burn—
         But, prithee, do not turn
   The current of your heart from me so soon:
         O save, in charity,
         The quickest pulse for me.

Save it for me, sweet love! though music breathe
   Voluptuous visions into the warm air,
Though swimming through the dance’s dangerous wreath,
         Be like an April day,
         Smiling and cold and gay,
   A temperate lily, temperate as fair;
         Then, heaven! there will be
         A warmer June for me.

Why this, you’ll say—my Fanny!—is not true;
   Put your soft hand upon your snowy side,
Where the heart beats: confess—'tis nothing new -
         Must not a woman be
         A feather on the sea,
   Swayed to and fro by every wind and tide?
         Of as uncertain speed
         As blow-ball from the mead?

I know it—and to know it is despair
   To one who loves you as I love, sweet Fanny,
Whose heart goes fluttering for you every where,
         Nor when away you roam,
         Dare keep its wretched home:
   Love, love alone, has pains severe and many;
         Then, loveliest! keep me free
         From torturing jealousy.

Ah! if you prize my subdued soul above
   The poor, the fading, brief pride of an hour:
Let none profane my Holy See of Love,
         Or with a rude hand break
         The sacramental cake:
   Let none else touch the just new-budded flower;
         If not—may my eyes close,
         Love, on their last repose!

This poem is in the public domain.

John Keats

John Keats

Born in 1795, John Keats was an English Romantic poet and author of three poems considered to be among the finest in the English language.

by this poet

poem
Four Seasons fill the measure of the year;
There are four seasons in the mind of man:
He has his lusty Spring, when fancy clear Takes in all beauty with an easy span: He has his Summer, when luxuriously Spring's honeyed cud of youthful thought he loves To ruminate, and by such dreaming high Is
poem
The poetry of earth is never dead:
   When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
   And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper's--he takes the lead
   In summer luxury,--he has never done
   With his delights; for when tired out with fun
poem
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, 
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless 
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees, 
  And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; 
    To swell the gourd, and plump