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Keats, John. (1795 - 1821).

L i f e

- fell in love with Fanny Brawne x but: his dedication to poetry, poverty, and growing illness made marriage impossible and love a torment

- as an apothecary-surgeon foreboded his early death, died of TBC when not yet 26

W o r k

- associated with the ‘Cockney School’

- produced poetry of a slow-paced, gracious movement, with characteristically sensuous descriptions

- delights at the sheer existence of things outside himself: capable to identify with external objects, animate or inanimate

- preoccupied with irreconcilable opposites: melancholy in delight, pleasure in pain, and love as an approximation to death

- defines ‘Negative Capability’ = ‘when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason’

“On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” (1816):

- an enthusiastic sonnet on George Chapman’s translation of The Iliad

“Sleep and Poetry” (1816):

- a layout of his programme deliberately modelled on the careers of the greatest poets

Endymion: A Poetic Romance (1818):

- a profuse allegory of a mortal’s quest for an ideal feminine counterpart and a flawless happiness beyond earthly possibilities

Hyperion (1818):

- an epic poem modelled on J. Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667)

- achieved the Miltonic manner > abandoned the poem as a threat to his individuality and decided to write independently

Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St Agnes, and Other Poems (1820):

> “Lamia” (1819):

- a narrative poem contrasting the beautiful female half-serpent Lamia x an aged, rational philosopher Apollonius 

- juxtaposes illusion x reality, the ideal x the actual, feeling x thought

> “Isabella” (1818):

-  a narrative poem drawing on Boccaccio's story of tragic lovers

> “The Eve of St Agnes” (1819):

- a narrative poem in a medieval setting, based on superstition

- contrasts cold x warmth, dark x light, hardness x softness, noise x stillness, cruelty x love

> “La Belle Dame sans Merci” (1819):

 - a ballad on the idea of fairy enthralment

The Fall of Hyperion (1856, posthumously):

- reworks the epic Hyperion into a dream vision

- retells the story of the resistance of the last of the Titans against the coming new order of the Gods

- the prefatory vision defines the influence of suffering on the imagination of a poet: the visionary requires to experience pain


(Sketch: Charles Brown. 1819. Source: Wikimedia Commons).

  • Author

    John Keats. (1795 - 1821).  British.
  • Work

    Poet. Author of "Ode on a Grecian Urn".
  • Genre

    Romantic poetry.


Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.

Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.

Baugh, Albert C. ed. A Literary History of England. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967.

Coote, Stephen. The Penguin Short History of English Literature. London: Penguin, 1993.

Sampson, George. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1946.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.

Keats's Odes

All of them from 1819.

"Ode on a Grecian Urn"
"Ode on Indolence"
"Ode on Melancholy"
"Ode to a Nightingale"
"Ode to Autumn"
"Ode to Psyche"


"O for ten years, that I may overwhelm / Myself in poesy; so I may do the deed / That my own soul has to itself decreed."

From "Sleep and Poetry" (1816).


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