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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 2
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
The surroundings create a mental picture of dullness and quietness in where he is. The first verses of the poem describe his surroundings. This creates imagery in the readers mind. When you read the poem the first time you become sympathised with the knight. As things are mentioned in the poem you do not entirely understand for example "I see a lily on thy brow". When you read into it you realise this mean he is depressed. But when he meets this lady he gets happier. But at the end he has a dream in which the people say "la belle dame sans merci" and he thinks he is one of the long line of people who have been used by the femme fatale or fatal woman.
- Word count: 685
Commentary on the Ode to Psyche. The Ode to Psyche by John Keats is the first of a series of Romantic odes written in 1819 in response to personal, political, and social events of the the time.
If it is interpreted as the latter, then the Poem also becomes a medium in which Keats explores his classical inclinations, basically that of telling the story of Psyche and Eros and bringing in thematic elements such as the leviathan power of love. But if the latter response is believed to be true, as the critique Harold Bloom believes, then the poem hardly explores this story and becomes an exploration of the more Romantic ideals of the imagination, nature, and the artist.
- Word count: 894
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
As with the first stanza, the second helps set the natural scene that Keats uses for this poem. One of the ideals of the Romantics' was to allow themselves to explore not only art and love, but their own ideals and nature, and this sort of Arcadian setting was commonplace, as it reflects not only the Hellenic revival of the time, but gives a perfect place to spell out these ideas in their poetry. Keats uses very sensual language, like "beaded bubbles", to allow the reader to lose themselves in the setting, as he himself is losing himself in the bird's song.
- Word count: 1153
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
Having written odes on such subjects as nature, 'To Autumn' and 'Ode to a Nightingale', artwork, 'Ode on a Grecian Urn', and emotion, 'Ode on Melancholy', to name but a few, it has been commented that each of Keats's odes open to "prepare the way for an intense central experience, comparable to that of love." 'Ode to a Nightingale' is a poem structured around the contrast between the poet, who is earthbound, and the bird, which is free. It is in this ode that the transience of life and the tragedy of old age, "where palsy shakes a few, sad
- Word count: 2323
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
"Write a detailed comparison of Boccaccio and Keats (Verses 35-43). What do we learn of Keats' intentions from the comparison?"
However, Keats takes much longer to deliver the information, thus building tension and giving the poem more body. He uses such phrases as "Glossy hair which once could shoot lustre into the sun", which gives us a vivid description of the attraction of Lorenzo. However, Keats expands on this emotional aspect of love by creating a large amount of tension between the lovers. Keats does this by giving a sense of awkwardness between the two lovers - by describing to us how difficult it is for both parties to express their love for each other. He uses vastly descriptive phrases like "But to each other dream, and nightly weep".
- Word count: 855
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
Keats life at Enfield came to an end when Abbey, who was determined to get Keats into an acceptable profession, apprenticed him to the surgeon and apothecary, Thomas Hammond in 1811. In 1815 Keats became a medical student in London and became a certified surgeon and apothecary. Keats, however, had made the decision to "rely on [his] abilities as a poet" (Levine 5), as he said to Abbey. His first published work, a sonnet, "O Solitude" and then the incredible, "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" established him on his chosen path.
- Word count: 2456
beautiful song of the Nightingale, he started to think that he might be able to enter the same world as the Nightingale's. One other very important thing is that Keats use animals to express his deepest feelings, and using the experience with the animals to show and remind himself of his past and the present sad, sorrow feelings, as shown on this 3 sentences: "Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, an dies, Where but to think is to be full of sorrow And leaden-eyed despairs," One of the reasons to why he wrote like this is probably because he was
- Word count: 1010
The Romantic poets also expressed the visions of their minds which shed light on the real world, transcending nature beyond the images of the material world. Individual poets differed in their interpretation of this basic view of the imagination. For Keats, his letter to Benjamin Bailey of twenty second of November 1817 stated:- 'I am certain of nothing save the holiness of the heart's affections and the truth of the imagination. What the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth, whether it existed before or not.'
- Word count: 1061
This has to do with Keats worrying about acceptance as well as worrying about dying before he has reached his full potential as a writer. An interesting use of diction comes in the second line when Keats uses "gleaned," "to gather grain left behind by reapers," to represent his ideas being written down. There is no way that a person's pen can actually collect ideas from a teeming or "prolific" mind like the narrator's, but the metaphor is clear to the reader.
- Word count: 872
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
It is a ballad, which is full of fittingly old-fashioned diction and syntax. By his antiquated expression and his hypnotically monotone quadrametre, Keats achieves a mysterious and gloomy atmosphere with the first couple of stanzas of the poem. "O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, So haggard and so woebegone?" (L. 5-6) To use Keats's own words, the mood is "woebegone". This clearly reflects the knight's emotions as the unknown individual, whose voice opens the poem, asks him about his problems. This is clear evidence that the whole poem is actually a dialogue between the knight and an unknown character possibly identifiable with the poet.
- Word count: 1003
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