Poet John Keats – A Relentless Fighter Against Adversity

Mohammad Maniruzzaman

Associate Professor,
Department of English, Comilla Victoria Govt. College

Briefing on Poet John Keats

Poet John Keats is pre-eminently a sensuous poet to all readers both casual and comprehensive. No doubt, his sensuousness is the cornerstone of his poetry, and all our five senses are highly gratified by his description of beauty and reality. And since he is pre-occupied with beauty and a worshipper of beauty in all its forms, he is very naturally inclined to give us sensuous pictures of what he sees and feels, and so, we are sometimes blind to see beyond the sensuous aspects of his poetry.

The hostile reviews deeply wounded the poet and, in the opinion of some critics, hastened his death. He received warm praise from his friends by the long narrative poem “Endymion” but was attacked savagely by “The Quarterly Review” and “Black wood’s Magazine”. But as a man of great courage, instead of being crushed by adverse criticism, he went on with his work with the idea of producing poetry that the world should not let die.

Brother of Poet John Keats

The wretched circumstances of Keats’s life make pathetic reading. The strain of nursing his brother Tom, who met a premature death, brought about a breakdown in his health. He felt very depressed and downcast. To aggravate his misery, he fell passionately in love with a girl called Fanny Brawne who did not respond to his love. The bitterness of his disappointment weighed heavily upon his already drooping spirits and broken health.

According to some biographers, she had agreed to marry him but he could not marry her on account of his poverty and growing illness. He had always felt threatened by consumption that ran in the family and which had already carried off his brother Tom. His fear of death finds expression in his sonnet “When I have fears that I may cease to be”. He was now definitely known to be suffering from consumption. He wrote his last sonnet, ” Bright Star, would I were steadfast as thou art”. Being conscious to the last, and attended by the rare devotion of his friend Joseph Severn, he chose his epitaph. “Here lies one whose name was writ in water”.

Early Death of Poet John Keats

The low life background of the livery stable of his father’s working place, want of refinement in his mother’s character, the early death of his parents; the uncongenial profession of medicine to which he was apprenticed, the vulgar companionship of young hospital attendants; the sickness and death of his brother Tom; his illness and his somewhat neurotic disposition; his unhappy infatuation with Fanny Brawne; the ugly, confining streets of London; and a general tone and atmosphere made him a ‘Cockney’ poet. According to some critics, these all added up to something from which his soul ardently craved relief.

Beauty in Poet John Keats eyes

The world of beauty was an asylum for him, an escape from the dreary and painful effects of ordinary experience. More than any other he emphasized beauty, because to him beauty and truth were one and inseparable. He was a passionate lover of beauty.

Therefore, beauty is a deity; religion, a joy forever. To Keats, the sense of beauty overcame every other consideration. For the sake of beauty, he completely forgets himself ad the world around him. In his frank pursuit of beauty, beauty was the moving principle of life. He loved beauty in all its forms and manifestations, in the flower and the cloud, in the song of the bird and the face of a workman, in a work of art, and all tales of romance and mythology. And his poetry has one dominant theme: Viz beauty. The sensuous beauty was a native gift that he was very much endowed with. The first line of “Endymion” strikes the Keynote of Keats’s poetry- “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”.

With him, poetry breaks away from the interests of contemporary life, returns to the past, and devotes itself to the service of beauty. Keats wrote, “I have loved the principle of beauty in all things. This principle came to him through three main channels: i) Through external nature, which he points with Shakespearean felicity, through the luxurious richness of thought seen in Elizabethan poets and playwrights; and through the severe grandeur of Greek art. No other poet would stand higher if he had died at 25.

Poet John Keats the Creator of the vers

If Judged by quality, Keats must rank with the greatest molders and creators of verse. The essential mark of his genius is that he unites the ideals of old Greece and modern romanticism. His poetic faith is summed up in the close of ‘The Ode On a Grecian Urn”. As a careful artist, he revised and remodeled his poems and took the utmost pains in polishing them. He uses the choicest and most appropriate diction. There are many jeweled phrases in his poems.

A beautiful phrase delighted him with a sense of intoxication. The extraordinary appeal of Keats’s poetry depends not only on his rich sensuousness, his lush imagery, and the passionate exaltation of his feelings but also on his gift of phrase. The beauty of his phrases, the subtleties of rhythm in the combination of words, and their evocative power compel the imagination of the reader to the mood which the poet seeks to produce in the reader. In some cases, this effect is achieved by the use of the simple words, as in the concluding lines of the sonnet, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer,” where the reaction of the sailors of Cortez to the discovery of the Pacific is visualized (Last three lines).

On the side of form and style, he is the most romantic of the romantic poets. As a poet, he ranks with the highest. “Much that he wrote is immature and inferior certainly, but the gold left after sifting is so pure the verse so noble alike in spirit and form- and the influence so wide and durable -that he takes his stand with Words worth and with Shelley, above Byron or Coleridge”. Matthew Arnold said of Keats: “He is with Shakespeare”.

Premature Death of Poet John Keats

In his premature death, English literature sustained its greatest loss. ” If one English poet might be recalled today from the dead to continue the work which he left unfinished on earth, it is probable that the crown of his country’s desire would be set on the head of John Keats.”

Greek art fascinated him. He was one of the finest flowers of the Romantic Movement. His genius blossomed under the romantic breeze and matured under the sunshine of genuine classicism of ancient Greece. His speedy development as a young poet is true, one of the most wonderful phenomena that left a deep mark in the history of English literature.

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