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AS and A Level: John Keats

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Keats and The Romantics

  1. 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. 2 The term Romantic was used only in hindsight from the 1860s onwards.
  3. 3 Romantic writers were in sympathy with contemporary revolutions across Europe (e.g. The French Revolution) and elsewhere.
  4. 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. 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. 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. 2 Keats saw the ‘viewless wings of poesy’ or the imagination as a way of escaping from life’s sorrows.
  3. 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. 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. 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. 1 Be sure to avoid description when you analyse the poetry. Discuss the poem/s in terms of concerns and techniques.
  2. 2 Address the wording of the title closely in your introduction, topic sentences and conclusion.
  3. 3 Embed quotations frequently to show a close knowledge of the text.
  4. 4 Use poetry terminology to demonstrate your understanding of poetic techniques.
  5. 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
  1. Marked by a teacher

    Using 'Ode on Melancholy' and one other, examine how Keats uses language to explore his muses

    4 star(s)

    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
  2. How does Keats appeal to the senses in Ode to the Nightingale

    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
  3. theme of loveliness

    In this sonnet, the poet has explored his fatal love besides the mortal beauty of his beloved f***y. 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
  4. Notes On Ode to Indolence by John Keats

    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
  5. John Keat's Odes

    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
  6. ode to a nightingale analysis

    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
  7. 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
  8. Keats Connects With Beauty, in

    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
  9. 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
  10. John Keats was born on October 31st, 1795 in Finsbury Pavement near London.

    '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
  11. 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
  12. How successfully does Keats address the theme of love and loss in La Belle Dame Sans Merci

    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
  13. 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
  14. Write a detailed Critical analysis of “Ode on a Grecian urn”

    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
  15. 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
  16. In tragedy, the boundaries between antagonists and protagonists are continually blurred. Explore to what extent you agree. Analyse closely Keats Authorial methods in two of the texts.

    Keats uses the fairytale stereotype of a heroic knight to set him up as the protagonist, the repetition of the first line (?O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms?), in stanza two emphasises this. We are also told through Keats? use of language that the knight is dying (?palely loitering?) additionally the world ?loitering? explicitly implies that this knight is waiting to die, making the suffering seem more drawn out and his death more tragic. Despite this when the knight tells his story the ambiguity in his language leads us to doubt his character.

    • Word count: 1162
  17. How is Romanticism conveyed in Keats To Autumn'?

    This is showing that what Keats is explaining is fruitful and full of nice, sweet things. This period of Keats life (1819) would have been emotionally straining for him. The year prior to him writing To Autumn, his beloved brother died at just 19. Also that same year, Keats met f***y Brawne and they fell in love. Due to this, Keats may have been in a very emotionally confused state when writing To Autum. He would have been grieving the death of his brother and also having strong feelings of love and passion towards f***y Brawne, after becoming engaged to her that same year.

    • Word count: 1013
  18. Is "To Autumn" by Keats a purely descriptive poem?

    This is showing that what Keats is explaining is fruitful and full of nice, sweet things. This period of Keats life (1819) would have been emotionally straining for him. The year prior to him writing To Autumn, his beloved brother died at just 19. Also that same year, Keats met f***y Brawne and they fell in love. Due to this, Keats may have been in a very emotionally confused state when writing To Autum. He would have been grieving the death of his brother and also having strong feelings of love and passion towards f***y Brawne, after becoming engaged to her that same year.

    • Word count: 1013
  19. Eternal Love Through Death in John Keats Bright Star

    He continues to state that if he ?has to live ever?, he would rather ?pillow?d upon my fair love?s ripening breast?. The ideas to be eternal and to love simultaneously do not go hand in hand. To love, one has to be human and therefore not an immortal, steadfast star. In the last line of the poem, Keats acknowledges that he would like to ?live ever? in love, but he has to be human in order to experience love, which hints that the love between Keats and Brawne will not last and will eventually fade away as time goes by.

    • Word count: 1240

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?

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