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AS and A Level: John Keats
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Keats and The Romantics
- 1 Keats, Blake, Byron, Coleridge, Shelley and Wordsworth are all poets associated with the Romantic Movement which made sweeping changes across Europe in the late 18th and early 19th century.
- 2 The term Romantic was used only in hindsight from the 1860s onwards.
- 3 Romantic writers were in sympathy with contemporary revolutions across Europe (e.g. The French Revolution) and elsewhere.
- 4 Romantic writers believed in making their work accessible, to speak to the common man. Much of Keats’ work makes reference to classical stories and myths.
- 5 Romantics shared a deep belief in the personal and the individual and a faith in the imagination, often referred to as ‘Fancy’ by Keats.
Keats’ Ideas and Expression
- 1 Keats expressed a belief in what he called ‘negative capability’ – or man’s ability to entertain contradictions in pursuit of a higher truth beyond logic.
- 2 Keats saw the ‘viewless wings of poesy’ or the imagination as a way of escaping from life’s sorrows.
- 3 In many of Keats’ odes, art is portrayed as a vehicle by which immortality is contained. In the depicting of sensuous experience, it simultaneously transcends it.
- 4 Look for binary oppositions in Keats’ work: the transitory/the eternal, the sensuous/the platonic, life/death, melancholy/joy. He believed that every concept contained its opposite.
- 5 Use Keats’ letters to supplement these ideas expressed in his poems. Many critics believe that they are equally important to understanding his ideas.
Five top tips for writing essays on Keats' work
- 1 Be sure to avoid description when you analyse the poetry. Discuss the poem/s in terms of concerns and techniques.
- 2 Address the wording of the title closely in your introduction, topic sentences and conclusion.
- 3 Embed quotations frequently to show a close knowledge of the text.
- 4 Use poetry terminology to demonstrate your understanding of poetic techniques.
- 5 Avoid going through poems chronologically – be selective and avoid narrating, describing or outlining the content without referring to techniques.
- Marked by Teachers essays 1
- Peer Reviewed essays 1
The first two words, "No, no," are both accented, emphasising them; their forcefulness expresses convincingly the speaker's passionate state. In the first stanza, the language used presents "the wakeful anguish of the soul". Keats speaks of "yew-berries" which are generally associated with mourning; the mood of the stanza is joyless which mirrors the subject it speaks of. However, Keats describes the "anguish" as "wakeful" because the sufferer still feels and so still has the capacity to feel happiness. The language used in 'Ode on Melancholy' is highly appropriate - the clouds are "weeping". Much of the effectiveness of this poem derives from the concrete imagery.
- Word count: 1194
In stanza one Keats expresses that his senses are "dulled as though of hemlock I had drunk" This use of simile helps the reader to understand that Keats' perspicacity, or sense of awareness, is not sharp enough to appreciate the full beauty emitted by the Nightingale. Thus the poet effectively appeals to the sense of alertness of the reader, and conveys his own lack of it. Keats' describes that he feels that his "heart aches". The heart is traditionally connotated with abstract feeling.
- Word count: 1218
In this sonnet, the poet has explored his fatal love besides the mortal beauty of his beloved Fanny. The poet proclaims: "When I behold upon the night's starr'd face, Huge cloudy symbols of high romance, And think that I may never live to trace Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance, And when I feel, fair creature of an hour, That I shall never look upon thee more". In these lines the poet takes the "Huge cloudy symbols" as a threat to his clear love, which is connoted by the phrase, "night's starr'd face". A clear reference to the poet's beloved is witnessed as the poet asserts "fair creature of an hour".
- Word count: 1196
He asks the figures why they didn't disappear and leave him in his indolent nothingness. He mentions the 'drowsy hour' being ripe, but fails to state what time of day it is. Keats slips into the oblivion of sleep, he doesn't care about pain or pleasure. His sleep allows him to flee everything, but their presence interrupts his escape. They make him uneasy and he wonders whom they are and why they are there. Stanza 3 The figures pass by for the third time, they suddenly disappear leaving him curious, and the speaker feels a powerful urge to follow them.
- Word count: 1327
Keats uses death-related imagery to highlight on the cold. "The sculptur'd dead...seem to freeze..." (Stanza II). By mentioning the dead, Keats is able to draw attention to the extent of the cold, since even the dead seem to be affected by it. Additionally, through the use of repetition Keats is able to create a very tense and chilly environment in the first few stanzas. This is so that when the reader comes across Stanzas V onwards, the contrast becomes obvious and creates an effect on the reader.
- Word count: 922
This though shows Keats realisation that he cannot escape reality, and that the happiness cannot last. Keats though tries to fight reality by drinking yet realises that this is not possible. While he invokes beautiful images of wine - further emphasised by the alliteration of "beaded bubbles winking at the brim" - he also realises that reality is not far away, as in the third stanza where he is overwhelmed with sad images of reality and death - "men sit and hear each other groan".
- Word count: 1225
He says it was in a forest that consists of beech trees and has many shadows ['shadows numberless'] indicating that Keats is describing a night scene, after all the nightingale is nocturnal. The repetition of the 'p', 'd' and 'm' sounds in the first quatrain of the first stanza suggests absentmindedness, distress, oblivion, lethargy and seriousness. In the second stanza Keats considers the possibilities of transcendence through drink and inspiration. He wants a drink of 'vintage' that refers to wine.
- Word count: 1864
Their description resembles that of pilgrims with 'bowed necks, and joined hands' wearing 'placid sandals' and 'white robes', they were seen in profile. The figures are called 'shades' and 'strange', the narrator is confused and cannot identify them. The narrator's confusion is shown in the next stanza with the repetition of the questions regarding the identity and the nature of the figures. The word 'ripe' is used to describe his time of idleness; this has positive innuendo and gives the impression of richness.
- Word count: 783
One of the things which the nightingale represents to Keats is death. This is not surprising as he is near death and so it is influencing the way he thinks. At times Keats welcomes death and at other times is undecided, but always the nightingale is used as a representation for it. "That I might drink, and leave the world unseen, And with thee fade away into the forest dim:" He is talking to the nightingale here, telling it that he will go with it, into the forest. Here the nightingale signifies death and Keats is wishing to follow it, to, in effect, die.
- Word count: 835
Keats wrote Isabella because he wanted to produce a commercial success, but he also thought it was 'too smokeable', i.e. that critics would ridicule it.What do you consider to be the positive aspects of the poem?
and so he might have been ridiculed for using other authors hard work just for profit and due to the fact that someone else thought it would make money Keats may have been scorned as he couldn't come up with his own inventions. 'Stealing' ideas from another may also have caused mocking at Keats's ability to produce his own works. Another reason that Keats believed that his work was 'too smokeable', in other words his poem would go up in smoke too easily, because the critics may have thought that Keats would go to any lengths for fame, even taking a well known fairy tale story and turning it into a money maker for himself.
- Word count: 1116
Also in a letter to his brother George, written on 31/12/1818 , he states that "a work of art should not seek to supply all the details but give enough to stimulate the readers imagination and omit enough to allow that imagination fill in the gaps". The Chapman's Homer , that's is referred to in the title of the poem, relates to a translation , of Homers Greek poetry by the Elizabethan writer, George Chapman , and was introduced to Keats by his good friend John Clarke.
- Word count: 740
charioted by Bacchus and his pards" (32). (Bacchus is god of wine and revelry.) Keats finally joins the bird on the "viewless wings of Poesy." Though able to imagine his flight with the nightingale, the narrator is can't actually see anything. Keats can imagine the "fast fading violets cover'd up in leaves" (47), but "cannot see what flowers are at my feet" (41). He can also picture the moon in his mind, but says "there is not light" (38). The song of the nightingale has Keats in such ecstasy because he believes he will never feel any more pain of human life.
- Word count: 1300
Lamia is a Narrative Poem in Which Keats Seems More Interested in Describing Than Narrating, Do You Agree?
Here we can see how she is described very beautifully and Keats uses several lines of description on her alone at that point. In this poem Keats seems to be to some extent, obsessed with Lamia. Even when she is a snake he describes her as a wonderful looking creature: "Vermilion-spotted, golden, green, and blue;" This is another example of how Keats seems to be more interested in describing Lamia than narrating. This piece of description alone shows us how beautiful Lamia is. Even though she is a snake which is renowned to be sly she is still described wonderfully.
- Word count: 819
What Do Ode To A Nightingale And Ode To A Grecian Urn Have To Say About Superiority Of Art Over Life.
He says in this opening stanza that he is not envious of the nightingale because it is so happy. Keats appreciated nature and saw it in some ways superior to humans. In "Ode To A Grecian Urn" Keats imagine what the people on the urn were doing when the picture on the urn was painted. He reflects on the idea of a thing of beauty living on past his lifetime and he rejoices in the fact that the urn will never change. As you can see in both poems Keats's glee is based on the fact that both the Nightingales song and the people on the Urn will never change and they will live on past his lifetime.
- Word count: 1435
'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' (poem 1) was written on April 21, 1819. The title as realised by some is actually French, which Keats took from an early fifteenth century French poem by Alan Chartier. The phrase belongs to the language of courtly love and it describes the beautiful woman without "mercy," that is the sort of courteous compassion, which prompts a woman to accept a lover's plea. The poem is deceptively simple and explores sexuality as well the role of nature.
- Word count: 1982
This poem is concerned with a deep sense of sadness which is portrayed through a beautiful immortal dream world in contrast to impermanent reality filled with pain and suffering. I feel that through this technique, Keats envokes a sadness which is almost like a melancholic beauty, and has both a calming influence and a sense of deep sadness. In 'Ode to a Nightingale' Keats uses this interplay of dreams and reality to present his view of the world and even though this poem seems almost to create an acceptance of sadness, I find it inspiring in a way as we realise sadness is part of our human condition, and he has somehow managed to create beauty out of this sadness.
- Word count: 4065
The speaker indicates that he enjoys the little mysteries of life and basically that he feels the best things in life should be kept secret. "Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard/Are sweater; ..." (ln 11-12) In the last stanza, this feeling is compared to his feelings about the anonymous form of the urn. "Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought/As doth eternity: ..." (ln 44-45) The speaker has many questions that he wants answered and compares this to what he sees on the urn.
- Word count: 544
Imagination; An Endless Vision In the poems "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by Jonathan Keats and "To His Coy Mistress" by Marvell the notion of time is very significant.
to things of stillness (like the urn). Marvel is interested in a "carpe diem" outlook on life using the ideal if time had no end and contrasting it to the chariot of death that follows each and every person. One can see the control of time as Marvel discusses in "To His Coy Mistress" most clearly in the first two lines of the poem, "Had we but world enough, and time, / This coyness, lady, were no crime" (1-2). Although on a basic level it seems obvious that Marvel is saying that "only if we had the time, we could be coy with each other for as long as we please", on a deeper level these lines have a greater significance.
- Word count: 1565
The first speaker describes the knight as having "a lilly on thy brow", "and on thy cheeks a fading rose". Keats originally wrote "death's lilly" and "death's rose" implying that the "haggard" knight had had a close encounter with death, or that the knight was like a zombie, roaming the land endlessly with no goal in mind. The landscape is described to be barren, like the knight's life, because he is "alone" and "palely loitering" and has no joy like there are no birds singing.
- Word count: 1325
However, in Keats' poem 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci", the balance of power changes. The mythical female in the poem woos the knight and takes him under her control, but still she is portrayed negatively. She is displayed as a deceitful character who lures men into danger 'she took me to her elfin grot. And there she wept and sigh'd full sore'. 'La Belle Sans Merci. Thee hath in thrall.' This quote highlights the female's seduction of the Knight and his piers. 'La belle dame' is described as a beautiful character implied by her name. However the other side of her character is shown within the rest of the title 'Sans Merci', without Merci.
- Word count: 967
Write a detailed critical analysis of “When I have fears that I may cease to be”. Pay Particular attention to what the poem reveals about Keats' preoccupation with death and his writing craft.
He tells us that his brain is 'teeming'. This is far from the average declaration made my literarians. He claims to be 'gleaning' this activity in his brain. A simile is used to liken this to a barn that holds full-ripened grain. He is telling us that he is essentially, in a poet's dream at the moment - he has more good ideas than he knows what to do with. When I behold, upon the night's starred face, Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance, And think that I may never live to trace Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance; Keats not only describes fears of not getting all his ideas down in time, he also worries that he will not do his ideas justice when he does come to put pen to paper.
- Word count: 1048
This first stanza sets the pattern of paradoxes that runs throughout the poem. Firstly in its structure, it is split into two sections - the first four lines are a series of apostrophes and the last six are a series of questions. Cole notes here that Keats also refers to the urn in terms of the relationship between time and silence - "A relationship that suggests privileged treatment, both affection and protection." He refers to the urn as both a 'bride' and as a 'foster-child' which supports this note. He then calls this urn a historian, who can tell stories which are sweeter than poetry, which perplexes Keats (Cole calls this 'puzzlement').
- Word count: 1266
In line 81, still relatively near the beginning , Keats talks about being a giant (of literature maybe) and seizing the world and understanding the human race, which is quite simply naive. There is also a fault with his way of using language, a sign that he hasn't been writing that long with some terrible rhyming. An example of this is, again, near the beginning on lines 25/26 when Keats rhymes 'holy' and 'folly' together. It is small incidents like this that show that Keats is far from ready to be next in line of the great writers as he claims he will some day become, which leads onto the next point of my argument.
- Word count: 876
Write a detailed critical analysis of ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’, based upon your study of D’avanzo’s ‘A poem about Poetry and Imagination: La Belle Dame sans Merci’. Consider your own views as well as extracts from the text.
In this respect is similar to modern "Who done it?" novels, in which one popular technique is to start by revealing the murderer, then working through the book showing the process of the story leading up to that point. This method has a very unique impact to it, and in my opinion strengthens the descriptions in the first stanza. For example, the words 'alone', 'palely' and 'withered' all describe the mood of the poem. D'avanzo has a very fitting summing up of Keats' first stanza, "The poet begins...with a stark picture of a dying season....anguished and deathly pale."
- Word count: 1236
What similarities and differences are there between the way women are represented in La Belle Dame sans Merci and The Lady of Shallot?
Both of these poems have been inspired by something that had happened the writer for them to write it. John Keats, the writer of La Bell Dame sans merci, had had a dream about a beautiful woman meeting him in a magic place which turned out to be filled with enslaved lovers. Lord Tennyson had read the story of his poem in a book, but he adapted it and included the curse, the mirror, the song and her weaving a tapestry. In both poems, the women are romantic figures and they experience strong feelings, and they arouse these feelings in others.
- Word count: 875