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John Keats

Portrait by William Hilton
Born 31 October 1795(1795-10-31)
Died 23 February 1821 (aged 25)
Occupation Poet, surgeon's apprentice, medical student
Language English
Nationality English
Alma mater Guy's Hospital
Literary movement Romanticism
Spouse(s) Frances "Fanny" Brawne (betrothed, never married)

John Keats (pronounced /ˈkiːts/, "keets"; 31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821) was the latest born of the great Romantic poets.[1] Along with Byron and Shelley, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the movement, despite publishing his work over only a four-year period.[1] During his short life, his work was not well received by critics, but his posthumous influence on poets such as Alfred Tennyson and Wilfred Owen was significant. The poetry of Keats was characterised by sensual imagery, most notably in the series of odes which remain among the most popular poems in English literature. The letters of Keats are among the most celebrated by any English poet.




Early life

John Keats was born on 31 October 1795 to Thomas and Frances Jennings Keats. He was the oldest of their four surviving children—George (1797–1841), Thomas (1799–1818), and Frances Mary "Fanny" (1803–89). A son was lost in infancy. John was born in central London, (although there is no clear evidence of exactly where).[2] His father was working as a barman at the Hoop and Swan pub when Keats was born, an establishment Thomas later managed and where the growing family would live for some years. It is now the "Keats at the Globe" pub, a few yards from modern day Moorgate station.

Keats was baptised at St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate and sent to a local dame school as an infant. In the summer of 1803, unable to attend Eton or Harrow because of expense,[3][4] he was sent to board at the Clark school in Enfield, close to his grandparents' house. The headmaster, John Clarke, was to become an important influence, mentor and friend, introducing Keats to a great deal of Renaissance literature including Tasso, Spenser and Chapman's translations. In April 1804, only nine months after Keats had started at Enfield, his father died of a fractured skull, falling from his horse on a return visit to the school. Thomas died intestate. Frances remarried two months afterwards, but quickly left the new husband and, with her four children, went to live with the children's grandmother, Alice Jennings, in the village of Edmonton.[5] In March 1810, when Keats was 14, his mother died, leaving the children in the custody of their grandmother. Jennings appointed two guardians to take care of the children. That autumn, Keats was removed from Clarke's school to apprentice with Thomas Hammond — a surgeon and apothecary. Charles Cowden Clarke, a close school friend of Keats, described this time as "the most placid time in [Keats's] painful life".[6] He lodged with Hammond and slept in the attic above the surgery.

A young poet—the Cockney School

His first surviving poem—An Imitation of Spenser—comes in 1814, when Keats was nineteen. In 1815, Keats registered as a medical student at Guy's Hospital (now part of King's College London). Within a month of starting, he was accepted for a "dressership" position within the hospital—a significant promotion with increased responsibility and workload, taking up precious writing time and increasing his ambivalence to working in medicine.[7] Strongly drawn by an ambition inspired by fellow poets such as Leigh Hunt and Byron, but beleaguered by family financial crises that continued to the end of his life, he suffered periods of deep depression. His brother George wrote that John "feared that he should never be a poet, & if he was not he would destroy himself".[8] In 1816, Keats received his apothecary's licence but before the end of the year he announced to his guardian that he had resolved to be a poet, not a surgeon.

A shepherd beloved by the moon goddess Selene from Greek myth, subjects of Keats's Endymion epic. Sculpture by Triscorni (1757-1833).

Though he continued his work and training at Guy's, Keats was devoting increasing time to the study of literature. In May 1816, Leigh Hunt, greatly admired by Keats, agreed to publish the sonnet O Solitude in his magazine The Examiner, a leading liberal magazine of the day.[9] It is the first appearance of Keats's poems in print and Charles Cowden Clarke refers to it as his friend's "red letter day",[10] first proof that John's ambitions were not ridiculous. In the summer of that year he went down to the coastal town of Margate with Clarke to write. There he began Calidore and initiated the era of his great letter writing.

In October, Clarke personally introduced Keats to the influential Hunt, a close friend of Byron and Shelley. Five months later Poems, the first volume of Keats verse, was published.[9] It was a critical failure but Hunt went on to publish the essay Three Young Poets (Shelley, Keats and Reynolds), along with the sonnet on Chapman's Homer, promising great things to come.[11]He introduced Keats to many prominent men in his circle, including editor of The Times Thomas Barnes, writer Charles Lamb, conductor Vincent Novello and poet John Hamilton Reynolds, who would become a close friend.[12] It was a decisive turning point for Keats. He was established in the public eye as a figure in, what Hunt termed, 'a new school of poetry'.[13] At this time Keats writes to his friend Bailey "I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart's affections and the truth of the imagination — What imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth".[14][1] This would eventually transmute into the concluding lines of Ode on a Grecian Urn " 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty' - that is all / you know on earth, and all ye need to know".

Endymion, on its eventual publication, was also damned by the critics, giving rise to Byron's quip that Keats was ultimately "snuffed out by an article". One particularly harsh review by John Wilson Croker appeared in the April 1818 edition of The Quarterly Review:

[...] It is not, we say, that the author has not powers of language, rays of fancy, and gleams of genius – he has all these; but he is unhappily a disciple of the new school of what has been somewhere called 'Cockney Poetry'; which may be defined to consist of the most incongruous ideas in the most uncouth language [...] There is hardly a complete couplet enclosing a complete idea in the whole book. He wanders from one subject to another, from the association, not of ideas, but of sounds [...]"[15]

John Gibson Lockhart wrote in Blackwoods Magazine

To witness the disease of any human understanding, however feeble, is distressing; but the spectacle of an able mind reduced to a state of insanity is, of course, ten times more afflicting. It is with such sorrow as this that we have contemplated the case of Mr John Keats. [...] He was bound apprentice some years ago to a worthy apothecary in town. But all has been undone by a sudden attack of the malady [...] For some time we were in hopes that he might get off with a violent fit or two; but of late the symptoms are terrible. The phrenzy of the "Poems" was bad enough in its way; but it did not alarm us half so seriously as the calm, settled, imperturbable drivelling idiocy of Endymion. [...] It is a better and a wiser thing to be a starved apothecary than a starved poet; so back to the [apothecary] shop Mr John, back to ‘plasters, pills, and ointment boxes’.[16]

It was Lockhart at Blackwoods who had coined the defamatory term "the Cockney School" for Hunt and his circle, including Hazlitt and, squarely, Keats. The dismissal was as much political as literary—aimed at upstart young writers deemed "uncouth" for their lack of education, non-formal rhyming and "low diction". They had not attended Eton, Harrow or Oxbridge colleges and they were not from the upper classes.

Portrait plaque of Keats sculpted by George Frampton

Well Walk

Unhappy with living in London and in bad health, Keats moved into rooms at 1 Well Walk, in April 1817, with his brothers. Both John and George nursed their brother Tom, who was suffering from tuberculosis. The house in Hampstead was close to Hunt and others from his circle, as well as the senior poet Coleridge, living in Highgate.[17]

In June 1818, Keats began a walking journey around Scotland, Ireland and the Lake district with his friend Charles Armitage Brown. George and his wife Georgina accompanied them as far as Lancaster and then headed to Liverpool, from where the couple would emigrate to America. (They lived in Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky until 1841 when George's investments went bad. Like both of his brothers, he would die penniless and racked by tuberculosis.[18] There would be no effective treatment for the disease until 1921.)[19]

In July, while on the Isle of Mull for the walking tour, Keats caught a bad cold and by August, Brown writes that his friend "was too thin and fevered to proceed on the journey".[20] On his return south, Keats continued to nurse Tom, continuously exposing himself to the highly infectious disease. Andrew Motion argues "It was on Mull that Keats' short life started to end, and his slow death began",[21] although biographers disagree on when the first signs of tuberculosis appear. "Consumption" was not identified as a single disease until 1820[22] and there was considerable stigma attached to the infection—often being associated with weakness, repressed sexual passion or masturbation. Keats "refuses to give it a name" in his letters.[23][24] Tom Keats died on 1 December 1818.


Keats and his friends were prolific letter writers. At this time Keats was writing regularly, in huge detail, to his brother George in America. Gitting states "Keats's letters to George now become the real diary of his life, a compendium of [...] profound philosophy, self-revelation and first drafts of poems [...] containing some of Keats's finest writing and thought".[25] Keats turns again and again in his letters to asking what it means to be a poet.[26] Strachan says "Keats's entertaining and illuminating letters rank highly in the history of all English literary correspondence".[27]

Wentworth Place

The winter of 1818, though troubled, marks the beginning of Keats's 'annus mirabilis' in which he wrote his most mature work for which he is now celebrated.[1] He had been greatly inspired by a series of recent lectures by Hazlitt on English poets and poetic identity.[26] He moved to the newly built Wentworth Place, owned by his friend Charles Armitage Brown, also on the edge of Hampstead Heath, ten minutes walk south of Well Walk. The poems Fancy and Bards of passion and of mirth were inspired by the gardens.[21] Keats composed five of his six great odes there in April and May and, although it is debated in which order they were written, Ode to Psyche starts the series. According to Brown, Ode to a Nightingale was composed under their mulberry tree (which is no longer there, though others have been planted since).[28] Brown says

In the spring of 1819 a nightingale had built her nest near my house. Keats felt a tranquil and continual joy in her song; and one morning he took his chair from the breakfast-table to the grass-plot under a plum-tree, where he sat for two or three hours. When he came into the house, I perceived he had some scraps of paper in his hand, and these he was quietly thrusting behind the books. On inquiry, I found those scraps, four or five in number, contained his poetic feelings on the song of our nightingale.[29]

Wentworth Place (left), now the Keats House museum, Hampstead

Dilke, co-owner of the house, strenuously denied the story, as it was printed in Milnes' 1848 biography of Keats, and dismissed it as "pure delusion". Wentworth Place now houses the Keats' House museum.[30]

In 1819, during his time at Wentworth, he also wrote The Eve of St. Agnes, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Hyperion, Lamia and Otho (critically slammed and not dramatised till 1950). In September, very short of money, he approached his publishers with his new poems. They were unimpressed with the collection, finding the presented versions of Lamia confusing, and describing St Agnes as having a "sense of pettish disgust" and "a 'Don Juan' style of mingling up sentiment and sneering [...] a poem unfit for ladies".[31]

On 21 September, Keats wrote to his friend Reynolds, introducing his last great ode: "To Autumn". He says

"How beautiful the season is now—How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it  ... I never lik'd the stubbled fields as much as now—Aye, better than the chilly green of spring. Somehow the stubble plain looks warm—in the same way as some pictures look warm—this struck me so much in my Sunday's walk that I composed upon it".[32]

In the third and final stanza of the poem he formed from his day's reflections, he writes

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue; [...]

To Autumn would go on, long after his death, to become one of the most highly praised poems in the English language.[33][34] The final volume Keats lived to see—Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems—was eventually published in July 1820. It received much greater acclaim than had Endymion or Poems, finding favourable notices in both The Examiner and The Edinburgh Review.

Fanny Brawne and Isabella Jones

Letters and poem drafts suggest that Keats first met Frances (Fanny) Brawne sometime between September and November 1818.[35] It seems that the 18-year-old Brawne was visiting the Dilke family at Wentworth Place (and not yet living there). Brawne was a Londoner, like Keats – born in the hamlet of West End near Hampstead on 9 August 1800. Her grandfather had run a London inn, as Keats's father had done, and had similarly lost several members of her family to tuberculosis. She also shared her Christian name with Keats's sister and mother. She had talents for dress-making, languages and repartee. She wrote of herself "I am not a great poetry reader" but had "a natural theatrical bent".[36] During November 1818 an intimacy sprang up between Keats and Brawne[37] but was very much shadowed by the impending death of Tom Keats, whom John was nursing.

In the same year, he met another woman for whom he felt a great conflicted passion – Isabella Jones – "beautiful, talented, witty". He had met her in Hastings while on holiday in June. He "frequented her rooms" in the winter of 1818-19, and says in his letters to George that he "warmed with her" and "kissed her", though it is unclear how close they ultimately became.[38]

On 3 April 1819, Brawne and her widowed mother moved into the other half of Dilke's Wentworth Place and Keats and Brawne were able to see each other every day. Keats began to lend Brawne books, such as Dante's Inferno, and they would read together. He gave her the love sonnet - Bright Star (revised for her). It was a work in progress and he continued to work on the poem until the last months of his life. The poem came to be forever associated with their relationship. "It was" says Gittings "a declaration of his love. [...] All his desires were concentrated on Fanny".[39]

Bright Star
Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art —
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors —
No — yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever — or else swoon to death.

From this point we have no documented mention of Isabella Jones again.[39]

Gittings states, "sometime before the end of June, he at last arrived at some sort of understanding with Brawne. This was far from a formal engagement; he still had far too little to offer". Keats endured great conflict knowing his expectations as a struggling poet in increasingly hard financial straits would preclude marriage to Brawne. Their love remained unconsummated; jealousy for his unbound 'Star' began to gnaw at him. Darkness, disease and depression were close in around him and are reflected in poems of the time such as The Eve of St. Agnes and La Belle Dame sans Merci where love and death both stalk. "I have two luxuries to brood over in my walks" he wrote to her "your loveliness and the hour of my death".[40] Keats writes to Brawne in another of his many hundreds of notes and letters:

My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you — I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again — my Life seems to stop there — I see no further. You have absorb'd me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving — I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. [...] I have been astonished that Men could die Martyrs for religion — I have shudder'd at it — I shudder no more — I could be martyr'd for my Religion — Love is my religion — I could die for that — I could die for you. (Letter, 13 October 1819).

The engagement was broken off as tuberculosis took hold.

None of Brawne's letters to Keats survive, though we have his own letters. As the poet had requested, Brawne's were destroyed upon his death. She outlived him by more than 40 years, married and had many children.[30]


Keats's House in Rome, now the Keats-Shelley Memorial House

During 1820, Keats began showing increasingly serious signs of tuberculosis and suffered two lung haemorrhages in the first few days of February.[41][42] He lost large amounts of blood in the attacks and was then bled further by his attending physician. Hunt nursed him in London for much of the summer. At the suggestion of his doctors, he agreed to leave London and move to Italy with his friend Joseph Severn. On 13 September, he left for Gravesend and four days later Keats and Severn boarded the sailing brig The Maria Crowther. Keats wrote his final revisions of Bright Star aboard the ship. Marsh comments

The journey was a minor catastrophe – storms broke out followed by a dead calm that slowed the ship’s progress. When it finally docked in Naples, the ship was held in quarantine for ten days because of a suspected outbreak of cholera in Britain. Keats reached Rome on November 14 by which time all hope of a warmer climate had evaporated.[43]

On arrival in Italy, he moved into a villa on the Spanish Steps in Rome, (now the Keats-Shelley Memorial House, a museum that is dedicated to their life and work). Despite attentive care from Severn and Dr. John Clark, the poet's health rapidly deteriorated. According to a biography of Severn,[44] the medical attention Keats was given may have hastened his end. When Keats arrived in Rome in November 1820, Dr Clark is said to have declared that the source of his illness was "mental exertions and application" and that his illness was chiefly "situated in his Stomach". He finally diagnosed consumption (now called tuberculosis) and put Keats on a starvation diet—an anchovy and a piece of bread a day—to reduce the blood flow to his stomach. He also bled Keats, which was a standard treatment of the day but would have contributed to his weakness.[45]

The grave of Keats in Rome

Brown commented of his friend:

They could have used opium in small doses, and Keats had asked Severn to buy a bottle of opium when they were setting off on their voyage. What Severn didn't realise was that Keats saw it as a possible resource if he wanted to commit suicide. He tried to get the bottle from Severn on the voyage but Severn wouldn't let him have it. Then in Rome he tried again. [...] Severn was in such a quandary he didn't know what to do, so in the end he went to the doctor who took it away. As a result Keats went through dreadful agonies with nothing to ease the pain at all.[45]

Keats was furious with Severn and with Doctor Clarke that they would not give him laudanum, often demanding "how long is this posthumous existence of mine to go on?" Severn wrote: "You cannot think how dreadful this is for me. [...] Keats raves till I am in a complete tremble for him.[45] He continued: "About four, the approaches of death came on. [Keats said] "Severn—I—lift me up—I am dying—I shall die easy; don't be frightened—be firm, and thank God it has come." I lifted him up in my arms. The phlegm seemd boiling in his throat, and increased until eleven, when he gradually sank into death, so quiet, that I still thought he slept."[46]

John Keats died on 23 February 1821 and was buried in the Protestant Cemetery, Rome. His last request was to be buried under a tombstone, without his name, and bearing only the legend (in pentameter), "Here lies one whose name was writ in water." Severn and Brown erected the stone. Under a relief of a lyre with broken strings, the epitaph reads:

This Grave
contains all that was Mortal,
of a
Young English Poet,
on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his Heart,
at the Malicious Power of his Enemies,
these Words to be engraven on his Tomb Stone:

Here lies One
Whose Name was writ in Water.
24 February 1821

Life and Death masks in Rome

There is a one day discrepancy between the official date of death and the grave marking. Severn and Brown had added their lines to the stone in protest at the critical reception of the Keats' work. Keats felt he had made no mark in his lifetime. He had written to Fanny Brawne in February 1820 "I have left no immortal work behind me — nothing to make my friends proud of my memory — but I have lov'd the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had had time I would have made myself remember'd".

Leigh Hunt blamed Keats' death on a scathing attack on "Endymion", carried in an article published several years earlier, in the Quarterly Review. Shelley memorialised Keats in his poem Adonais.[47] Motion says "Shelley promoted Keats as someone whose achievement could not be separated from agony, who was 'spiritualised' by his decline, and [...] simply too fine-tuned to endure the buffetings of the world". This is the consumptive, suffering image popularly held today.[48]

In 2009, Marsh commented, "In the old part of the graveyard, barely a field when Keats was buried here, there are now umbrella pines, myrtle shrubs, roses, and carpets of wild violets. [...] Shelley, one of Keats’s most fervent champions, is also buried here"[43] and Severn is buried next the dear friend he nursed till the end.[49]

Biographical controversy

Relief on wall near his grave in Rome

No-one who had known Keats at first hand ever wrote a full biography of Keats's life.[50] Shortly after Keats's death in 1821, his own publisher Taylor and Hessey announced they would speedily publish The memoirs and Remains of John Keats but his friends refused to co-operate with the venture and so it was scuppered. There were "biographical jottings of varying natures and values"[50] about the poet who had become a figure within artistic circles – including prolific notes, chapters and letters from his many artist and writer friends. These, however, often give contradictory or heavily biased accounts of events and were subject to quarrels and rifts.[50] His friends Brown, Severn, Dilke, Shelley and Hunt, his guardian Richard Abbey, his publisher Taylor, Fanny Brawne and many others issued posthumous commentary on Keats's life. Gittings suggests that these early writings "coloured all subsequent biography and [have] become embedded into a body of Keats legend, which is to this day very difficult to shift".[51] After much dithering, the first official biography was published in 1848 by Richard Monckton Milnes. Landmark Keats biographers since, include Sidney Colvin, Robert Gittings, Walter Jackson Bate and Andrew Motion.


Life mask of Keats, National Portrait Gallery, London

When Keats died, at the age of 25, he had been seriously writing poetry for barely six years — from 1814 until the summer of 1820 - and publishing only for four. His first poem, the sonnet O Solitude appeared in the Examiner in May 1816 and his collection Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St Agnes and other poems came in July 1820 before his final voyage to Rome. The compression of this poetic apprenticeship and maturity into so short a time is one remarkable aspect of Keats's work.[1]

It is said that the total sales of Keats's three volumes of poetry amounted to only 200 copies in his lifetime.[52] Yet, Motion argues: "When he died at the tragically early age of 25, his admirers praised him for thinking "on his pulses" – for having developed a style which was more heavily loaded with sensualities, more gorgeous in its effects, more voluptuously alive to actualities than any poet who had come before him." In his own words, Keats sought to "load every rift" with ore.[53] His skills were acknowledged by his influential allies such as Shelley, Hunt and to a lesser extent Byron, among the third generation of Romantic poets,[52] if receiving some harsh reviews from critics and publishers. Thirty years later the situation had changed. With Milnes's full biography and with Tennyson as his champion, Keats's work slowly entered the established canon of English literature.

Yet it is notable that although Keats was prolific in his short writing life, and is now one of the most studied and admired of British poets, as Strachan comments "The poet's reputation rests on a fairly small body of work",[54] centring on the Odes. In 1882, Algernon Charles Swinburne wrote in the Encyclopedia Britannica that "the Ode to a Nightingale, [is] one of the final masterpieces of human work in all time and for all ages".[55] Vendler at Harvard says the odes "are a group of works in which the English language find ultimate embodiment".[56] Bate declared of To Autumn: "Each generation has found it one of the most nearly perfect poems in English".[57] M. R. Ridley stated the ode "is the most serenely flawless poem in our language".[58]


Keats-Shelley Memorial House (right) at the Spanish Steps, Rome, Italy
  • The death of Keats inspired Shelley to write the poem Adonais.
  • Byron later composed a short poem on Shelley's theme employing the phrase "snuffed out by an article." However, Byron, far less admiring of the poetry of Keats than Shelley and generally more cynical in nature, was here probably just as much poking fun at Shelley's interpretation as he was having a dig at the critics.
  • The largest collection of the letters, manuscripts, and other papers of Keats is in the Houghton Library at Harvard University. Other collections of such material can be found at the British Library; Keats House, Hampstead; the Keats-Shelley Memorial House in Rome; and the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York.
  • Keats in Hampstead, is a play about Keats and Brawne, written and directed by James Veitch. It has been regularly been performed at Keats House, Hampstead.[59]
  • The 1845 short story "P.'s Correspondence" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of the earliest works of alternate history, speculated on what Keats' later life would have been like – especially, what further poetry he would have composed – had he not died so young.
  • The 2009 film Bright Star, written and directed by Jane Campion, focuses on Keats' relationship with Fanny Brawne.
  • Since 1998 the British Keats-Shelley Memorial Association have annually awarded a poetry prize. The organisation encourages poets to "respond personally to the emotions aroused in them by the work of the Romantics".[60]

Collected works of Keats

  • The Complete Poetical Works and Letters of John Keats ed. Horace Elisha Scudder, Boston: Riverside Press (1899)[61]
  • The Complete Poetical Works of John Keats ed. H. Buxton Forman. Oxford University Press (1907)[62]
  • The Letters of John Keats 1814–1821 Volumes 1 and 2 ed. Hyder Edward Rollins. Harvard University Press (1958)[63]
  • The Poems of John Keats ed. Jack Stillinger Harvard University Press (1978)[64]
  • Complete Poems ed. Jack Stillinger. Harvard University Press (1982)[65]
  • John Keats: Poetry Manuscripts at Harvard, a Facsimile Edition. ed. Jack Stillinger. Harvard University Press (1990) ISBN 0674477758[66]
  • Selected Letters of John Keats ed. Grant F. Scott. Harvard University Press (2002)[67]
  • John Keats. Ed. Susan Wolfson. Longman (2007)

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e O'Neill and Mahoney (1988) p418
  2. ^ Motion (1997) p10
  3. ^ Harrow. Motion (1998) p22
  4. ^ Milnes (1848)
  5. ^ Monckton Milnes (1848) pxiii
  6. ^ Motion (1997) p46
  7. ^ Motion (1998) p98
  8. ^ Motion (1997) p94
  9. ^ a b Hirsch, Edward (2001)
  10. ^ Colvin (2006) p35
  11. ^ Gittings (1968) p155
  12. ^ Motion (1997) p116–120
  13. ^ Motion (1997) p130
  14. ^ Keats letter to Benjamin Bailey, November 22nd, 1817
  15. ^ The Quarterly Review. April 1818. pp204–08
  16. ^ "Extracts from Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 3 (1818) 519-24". Nineteenth Century Literary Manuscripts, Part 4. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  17. ^ On 11 April 1819, Keats and Coleridge had a long walk together over the Heath. Keats says in a letter to his brother George, that they talked about "a thousand things ... nightingales, poetry, poetical sensation, metaphysics". Motion (1997), p365–66
  18. ^ New York Times article: Tracing the Keats Family in America; Koch 30 July 1922.). Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  19. ^ Motion (1997) p494
  20. ^ Letter of 7 August 1818; Brown (1937)
  21. ^ a b Motion (1997) p290
  22. ^ Zur Pathogenie der Impetigines. Auszug aus einer brieflichen Mitteilung an den Herausgeber. [Müller’s] Archiv für Anatomie, Physiologie und wissenschaftliche Medicin. 1839, page 82.
  23. ^ De Almeida (1991) p206–07
  24. ^ Motion (1997) p500–01
  25. ^ Gittings (1968) p266
  26. ^ a b O'Neill and Mahoney (1988) p419
  27. ^ Strachan (2003) p12
  28. ^ Hart, Christopher. (2 August 2009.) "Savour John Keats' poetry in garden where he wrote". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  29. ^ Bate (1963) p63
  30. ^ a b Kennedy, Maev. (22 July 2009.) "Keats's London home reopens after major refurbishment". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  31. ^ Gittings (1968) p504
  32. ^ Houghton (2008) p184
  33. ^ Bate p581: "[...] each generation has found it one of the most nearly perfect poems in English."
  34. ^ The 1888 Encyclopaedia Britannica declared, "Of these [odes] perhaps the two nearest to absolute perfection, to the triumphant achievement and accomplishment of the very utmost beauty possible to human words, may be that of to Autumn and that on a Grecian Urn" Baynes, Thomas (Ed.). Encyclopedia Britannica Vol XIV. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1888. OCLC 1387837. p23
  35. ^ Gittings (1968) p262
  36. ^ Gittings (1968) p268
  37. ^ Gittings (1968) p264
  38. ^ Gittings (1968) p139
  39. ^ a b Gittings (1968) p293-8
  40. ^ Gittings (1968) p327-331
  41. ^ Bate (1964) p636
  42. ^ Motion (1997) p496
  43. ^ a b Marsh, Stefanie. (2 November 2009). "A window to the soul of John Keats". The Times. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  44. ^ Brown, Sue, (2009)
  45. ^ a b c Flood, Alison. (26 October 2009.) "Doctor's mistakes to blame for Keats's agonising end, says new biography". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  46. ^ Colvin (1917) p208
  47. ^ "Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats". Representative Poetry Online. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  48. ^ Motion (1997) p499
  49. ^ Motion, Andrew. (7 May 2005.) "Keats's keeper". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  50. ^ a b c Gittings (1968) p3
  51. ^ Gittings (1968) p5
  52. ^ a b Andrew Motion. "Article 23 January 2010 ''An introduction to the poetry of John Keats''". Guardian. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  53. ^ Keats Letter To Percy Bysshe Shelley, 16 August 1820
  54. ^ Strachan (2003) p2
  55. ^ "Keats, John". Encyclopedia Britannica Ninth Edition, Vol XIV. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1882. pp22–24
  56. ^ Vendler (1933)
  57. ^ Bate (1963)
  58. ^ Ridley & Clarendon (1933)
  59. ^ The play Keats in Hampstead. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  60. ^ The Keats-Shelley Poetry Award. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  61. ^ The Complete Poetical Works and Letters of John Keats. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  62. ^ The Complete Poetical Works of John Keats. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  63. ^ The Letters of John Keats 1814–1821 Volumes 1 and 2. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  64. ^ The Poems of John Keats. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  65. ^ Complete Poems. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  66. ^ John Keats: Poetry Manuscripts at Harvard. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  67. ^ Selected Letters of John Keats. Retrieved 11 February 2010.


  • Bate, Walter Jackson (1964). John Keats. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
  • Brown, Charles Armitage (1937). The Life of John Keats, ed. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Brown, Sue (2009) Joseph Severn, A Life: The Rewards of Friendship. Oxford University Press ISBN 9780199565023
  • Colvin, Sidney (1917). John Keats: His Life and Poetry, His Friends Critics and After-Fame. London: Macmillan.
  • Colvin, Sidney (1970). John Keats: His Life and Poetry, His Friends, Critics, and After-Fame. New York: Octagon Books.
  • Coote, Stephen (1995). John Keats. A Life. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
  • De Almeida, Hermione. Romantic Medicine and John Keats. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. ISBN 0195063074
  • Gittings, Robert (1954). John Keats: The Living Year. 21 September 1818 to 21 September 1819. London: Heinemann
  • Gittings, Robert (1964). The Keats Inheritance. London: Heinemann.
  • Gittings, Robert (1968). John Keats. London: Heinemann.
  • Goslee, Nancy (1985). Uriel's Eye: Miltonic Stationing and Statuary in Blake, Keats and Shelley. University of Alabama Press, ISBN 0817302433
  • Hewlett, Dorothy (3rd rev. ed. 1970). A life of John Keats. London: Hutchinson.
  • Hirsch, Edward (Ed). (2001)Complete Poems and Selected Letters of John Keats. Random House Publishing. ISBN 0375756698
  • Houghton, Richard (Ed). (2008)The Life and Letters of John Keats. Read Books.
  • Jones, Michael (1984). "Twilight of the Gods: The Greeks in Schiller and Lukacs", Germanic Review 59 (2): 49–56.
  • Lachman, Lilach (1988). "History and Temporalization of Space: Keats' Hyperion Poems.", Proceedings of the XII Congress of the International Comparative Literature Association, edited by Roger Bauer and Douwe Fokkema (Munich, Germany): 159–164.
  • Monckton Milnes, Richard, ed. (Lord Houghton) (1848). Life, Letters and Literary Remains of John Keats. 2 vols. London: Edward Moxon.
  • Motion, Andrew (1997). Keats. London: Faber.
  • O'Neill, Michael & Mahoney Charles (ed.s) (2007) Romantic Poetry: An Annotated Anthology. Blackwell ISBN-10 0631213171
  • Ridley, M. and R. Clarendon (1933) Keats' craftsmanship: a study in poetic development ASIN: B00085UM2I (Out of Print in 2010)
  • Stillinger, Jack (1982). Complete Poems. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, ISBN 0674154304
  • Strachan, John (Ed). (2003) A Routledge Literary Sourcebook on the Poems of John Keats. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415234786
  • Vendler, Helen (1983) The Odes of John Keats, Belknap Press ISBN-10: 0674630769
  • Walsh, John Evangelist (1999). Darkling I Listen: The Last Days and Death of John Keats. New York: St. Martin's Press
  • Ward, Aileen (1963). John Keats: The Making of a Poet. London: Secker & Warburg.
  • Wolfson, Susan J. (1986). The Questioning Presence. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, ISBN 0801419093

Further reading

  • Kirkland, John (2008). Love Letters of Great Men, Vol. 1. CreateSpace Publishing.
  • Lowell, Amy (1925). John Keats. 2 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Parson, Donald (1954). Portraits of Keats. Cleveland: World Publishing Co.
  • Plumly, Stanley (2008). Posthumous Keats. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
  • Richardson, Joanna (1963). The Everlasting Spell. A Study of Keats and His Friends. London: Cape
  • Richardson, Joanna (1980). Keats and His Circle. An Album of Portraits. London: Cassell.
  • Rossetti, William Michael (1887). The Life and Writings of John Keats. London: Walter Scott.
  • Turley, Richard Marggraf (2004). Keats' Boyish Imagination. London: Routledge, ISBN 9780415288828

External links





Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to John Keats article)

From Wikiquote

The genius of poetry must work out its own salvation in a man; it cannot be matured by law and precept, but by sensation and watchfulness in itself.

John Keats (October 31, 1795February 23, 1821) was one of the principal poets of the English Romantic movement.



Each imagin'd pinnacle and steep
Of godlike hardship tells me I must die
Like a sick Eagle looking at the sky.
On the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.
Here lies one whose name was writ in water.
  • 'My spirit is too weak — mortality
    Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep
    And each imagin'd pinnacle and steep
    Of godlike hardship tells me I must die
    Like a sick Eagle looking at the sky.
  • In drear-nighted December,
    Too happy, happy tree,
    Thy branches ne'er remember
    Their green felicity.
  • But were there ever any
    Writh'd not of passed joy?
    The feel of not to feel it,
    When there is none to heal it,
    Nor numbed sense to steel it,
    Was never said in rhyme.
    • "Stanzas", st. 3
  • It keeps eternal whisperings around
    Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell
    Gluts twice ten thousand Caverns, till the spell
    Of Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound.
  • When I have fears that I may cease to be
    Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
    Before high piled books, in charact’ry,
    Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain;
    When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d 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;
    And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
    That I shall never look upon thee more,
    Never have relish in the faery power
    Of unreflecting love! — then on the shore
    Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
    Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.
  • Shed no tear! O shed no tear!
    The flower will bloom another year.

    Weep no more! O weep no more!
    Young buds sleep in the root's white core.
    • "Faery Songs", I (1818)
  • This living hand, now warm and capable
    Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
    And in the icy silence of the tomb,
    So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
    That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
    So in my veins red life might stream again,
    And thou be conscience-calm'd — see here it is —
    I hold it towards you.
  • Bright star! would I were stedfast as thou art-
    Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
    And watching with eternal lids apart,
    Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
    The moving waters at their priestlike task
    Of pure ablution round earth's human shores.
  • None can usurp this height...
    But those to whom the miseries of the world
    Are misery, and will not let them rest.
  • To his sight
    The husk of natural objects opens quite
    To the core; and every secret essence there
    Reveals the elements of good and fair;
    Making him see, where Learning hath no light.
    • "The Poet," London Magazine (Oct 1821)
  • Here lies one whose name was writ in water.
    • Epitaph for himself (1821)

Letters (1817-1820)

  • I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the truth of imagination — what the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth — whether it existed before or not.
    • Letter to Benjamin Bailey (November 22, 1817)
  • The imagination may be compared to Adam's dream — he awoke and found it truth.
    • Letter to Benjamin Bailey (November 22, 1817)
  • O for a life of Sensations rather than of Thoughts!
    • Letter to Benjamin Bailey (November 22, 1817)
  • I scarcely remember counting upon happiness — I look not for it if it be not in the present hour — nothing startles me beyond the moment. The setting sun will always set me to rights, or if a sparrow come before my Window I take part in its existence and pick about the gravel.
    • Letter to Benjamin Bailey (November 22, 1817)
  • At once it struck me what quality went to form a man of achievement, especially in literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously — I mean negative capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.
    • Letter to George and Thomas Keats (December 22, 1817)
  • They will explain themselves — as all poems should do without any comment.
    • Letter to George Keats (1818)
  • Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one's soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself, but with its subject.
    • Letter to John Hamilton Reynolds (Februrary 3, 1818)
  • We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us — and if we do not agree, seems to put its hand in its breeches pocket. Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one's soul, and does not startle or amaze with itself, but with its subject.
    • Letter to John Hamilton Reynolds (February 3, 1818)
  • Many have original minds who do not think it — they are led away by custom — Now it appears to me that almost any man may like the spider spin from his own inwards his own citadel.
    • Letter to John Hamilton Reynolds (February 19, 1818)
  • In Poetry I have a few axioms, and you will see how far I am from their centre. I think Poetry should surprise by a fine excess and not by singularity — it should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance — Its touches of Beauty should never be halfway thereby making the reader breathless instead of content: the rise, the progress, the setting of imagery should like the Sun come natural to him — shine over him and set soberly although in magnificence leaving him in the luxury of twilight — but it is easier to think what Poetry should be than to write it — and this leads me on to another axiom. That if Poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree it had better not come at all.
    • Letter to John Taylor (February 27, 1818)
  • Scenery is fine — but human nature is finer.
    • Letter to Benjamin Bailey (March 13, 1818)
  • Every mental pursuit takes its reality and worth from the ardour of the pursuer.
    • Letter to Benjamin Bailey (March 13, 1818)
  • Axioms in philosophy are not axioms until they are proved upon our pulses: we read fine things but never feel them to the full until we have gone the same steps as the author.
    • Letter to John Hamilton Reynolds (May 3, 1818)
  • I compare human life to a large mansion of many apartments, two of which I can only describe, the doors of the rest being as yet shut upon me.
    • Letter to John Hamilton Reynolds (May 3, 1818)
  • There is an awful warmth about my heart like a load of immortality.
    • Letter to John Hamilton Reynolds (September 22, 1818)
  • I begin to get a little acquainted with my own strength and weakness. Praise or blame has but a momentary effect on the man whose love of beauty in the abstract makes him a severe critic on his own works.
    • Letter to James Hessey (October 9, 1818)
  • I have written independently without Judgment. I may write independently, and with Judgment, hereafter. The Genius of Poetry must work out its own salvation in a man: It cannot be matured by law and precept, but by sensation and watchfulness in itself — That which is creative must create itself — In Endymion, I leaped headlong into the sea, and thereby have become better acquainted with the Soundings, the quicksands, and the rocks, than if I had stayed upon the green shore, and piped a, silly pipe, and took tea and comfortable advice. I was never afraid of failure; for I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest.
    • Letter to James Hessey (October 9, 1818)
  • I think I shall be among the English Poets after my death.
    • Letter to George and Georgiana Keats (October 14, 1818)
  • The poetical character... is not itself — it has no self — it is every thing and nothing — It has no character — it enjoys light and shade; it lives in gusto, be it fair or foul, high or low, rich or poor, mean or elevated. — It has as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen. What shocks the virtuous philospher, delights the camelion poet.
    • Letter to Richard Woodhouse (October 27, 1818)
  • A poet is the most unpoetical of anything in existence; because he has no identity — he is continually informing — and filling some other body.
    • Letter to Richard Woodhouse (October 27, 1818)
  • A man's life of any worth is a continual allegory — and very few eyes can see the mystery of life — a life like the Scriptures, figurative... Lord Byron cuts a figure, but he is not figurative. Shakespeare led a life of allegory: his works are the comments on it.
    • Letter to George and Georgiana Keats (February 14 - May 3, 1819)
  • Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced — Even a proverb is no proverb to you till your Life has illustrated it.
    • Letter to George and Georgiana Keats (February 14-May 3, 1819)
  • I myself am pursuing the same instinctive course as the veriest human animal you can think of — I am, however young, writing at random — straining at particles of light in the midst of a great darkness — without knowing the bearing of any one assertion, of any one opinion. Yet may I not in this be free from sin?
    • Letter to George and Georgiana Keats (March 19, 1819)
  • Call the world if you please "The vale of soul-making."
    • Letter to George and Georgiana Keats (April 21, 1819)
  • I have two luxuries to brood over in my walks, your loveliness and the hour of my death. O that I could have possession of them both in the same minute.
    • To Fanny Brawne (July 25, 1819)
  • I have nothing to speak of but my self-and what can I say but what I feel
    • Letter to John Hamilton Reynolds (August 24 1819)
  • "If I should die," said I to myself, "I have left no immortal work behind me — nothing to make my friends proud of my memory — but I have loved the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had had time I would have made myself remembered."
    • To Fanny Brawne (c. February 1820)
  • You are always new. The last of your kisses was ever the sweetest; the last smile the brightest; the last movement the gracefullest.
    • Letter to Fanny Brawne (March 1820)
  • You might curb your magnanimity, and be more of an artist, and load every rift of your subject with ore.
  • I can scarcely bid you good-bye, even in a letter. I always made an awkward bow. God bless you!
    • Letter to Charles Armitage Brown (November 30, 1820)

Poems (1817)

  • I stood tip-toe upon a little hill,
    The air was cooling, and so very still,
    That the sweet buds which with a modest pride
    Pull droopingly, in slanting curve aside,
    Their scantly leaved, and finely tapering stems,
    Had not yet lost those starry diadems
    Caught from the early sobbing of the morn.
  • And then there crept
    A little noiseless noise among the leaves,
    Born of the very sigh that silence heaves.
    • "I Stood Tiptoe", l. 10
  • Open afresh your round of starry folds,
    Ye ardent marigolds!
    • "I Stood Tiptoe", l. 47
  • Why, you might read two sonnets, ere they reach
    To where the hurrying freshnesses aye preach
    A natural sermon o’er their pebbly beds;
    Where swarms of minnows show their little heads,
    Staying their wavy bodies ’gainst the streams,
    To taste the luxury of sunny beams
    Temper’d with coolness.
    • "I Stood Tiptoe", l. 72
  • Sometimes goldfinches one by one will drop
    From low hung branches; little space they stop;
    But sip, and twitter, and their feathers sleek;
    Then off at once, as in a wanton freak:
    Or perhaps, to show their black, and golden wings
    Pausing upon their yellow flutterings.
    • "I Stood Tiptoe", l. 87
  • E’en like the passage of an angel’s tear
    That falls through the clear ether silently.
    • "Sonnet. To One Who Has Been Long in City Pent"
  • Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    Round many western islands have I been
    Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
  • Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken;
    Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
    He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men
    Look’d at each other with a wild surmise —
    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
    • "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer"
  • And other spirits there are standing apart
    Upon the forehead of the age to come;
    These, these will give the world another heart,
    And other pulses. Hear ye not the hum
    Of mighty workings in a distant mart?
    Listen awhile ye nations, and be dumb.
  • Stop and consider! life is but a day;
    A fragile dew-drop on its perilous way
    From a tree’s summit.
  • 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.
    • "Sleep and Poetry", st. 6
  • A drainless shower
    Of light is poesy; ’tis the supreme of power;
    ’Tis might half slumb’ring on its own right arm.
    • "Sleep and Poetry", st. 11
  • But strength alone though of the Muses born
    Is like a fallen angel: trees uptorn,
    Darkness, and worms, and shrouds, and sepulchres
    Delight it; for it feeds upon the burrs,
    And thorns of life; forgetting the great end
    Of poesy, that it should be a friend
    To sooth the cares, and lift the thoughts of man.
    • "Sleep and Poetry", st. 11

Endymion (1818)

Full text online
A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness.
In spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.
Wherein lies happiness? In that which becks
Our ready minds to fellowship divine,
A fellowship with essence; till we shine,
Full alchemiz’d, and free of space.
The clear religion of heaven!
Feel we these things? — that moment have we stept
Into a sort of oneness, and our state
Is like a floating spirit's.
He ne'er is crown'd
With immortality, who fears to follow
Where airy voices lead.
  • There is not a fiercer hell than the failure in a great object.
    • Preface
  • The imagination of a boy is healthy, and the mature imagination of a man is healthy; but there is a space of life between, in which the soul is in a ferment, the character undecided, the way of life uncertain, the ambition thicksighted: thence proceeds mawkishness, and the thousand bitters which those men I speak of must necessarily taste in going over the following pages.
    • Preface
  • A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
    Its loveliness increases; it will never
    Pass into nothingness
    ; but still will keep
    A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
    Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
    • Bk. I, l. 1
  • In spite of all,
    Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
    From our dark spirits.
    • Bk. I, l. 11
  • And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
    We have imagined for the mighty dead;
    All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
    An endless fountain of immortal drink,
    Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.
    • Bk. I, l. 20
  • Nor do we merely feel these essences
    For one short hour; no, even as the trees
    That whisper round a temple become soon
    Dear as the temple’s self, so does the moon,
    The passion poesy, glories infinite,
    Haunt us till they become a cheering light
    Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast,
    That, whether there be shine, or gloom o’ercast,
    They alway must be with us, or we die.
    • Bk. I, l. 25
  • O magic sleep! O comfortable bird,
    That broodest o’er the troubled sea of the mind
    Till it is hush’d and smooth!
    • Bk. I, l. 453
  • Time, that aged nurse,
    Rocked me to patience.
    • Bk. I, l. 705
  • Wherein lies happiness? In that which becks
    Our ready minds to fellowship divine,
    A fellowship with essence; till we shine,
    Full alchemiz’d, and free of space. Behold
    The clear religion of heaven!
    • Bk. I, l. 777
  • Ghosts of melodious prophesyings rave
    Round every spot where trod Apollo's foot
    Bronze clarions awake, and faintly bruit,
    Where long ago a giant battle was;
    And, from the turf, a lullaby doth pass
    In every place where infant Orpheus slept.
    Feel we these things? — that moment have we stept
    Into a sort of oneness, and our state
    Is like a floating spirit's.
    But there are
    Richer entanglements, enthralments far
    More self-destroying, leading, by degrees,
    To the chief intensity: the crown of these
    Is made of love and friendship, and sits high
    Upon the forehead of humanity.
    • Bk. I, l. 789
  • My restless spirit never could endure
    To brood so long upon one luxury,
    Unless it did, though fearfully, espy
    A hope beyond the shadow of a dream.
    • Bk. I, l. 854
  • Pleasure is oft a visitant; but pain
    Clings cruelly to us.
    • Bk. I, l. 906
  • He ne'er is crown'd
    With immortality, who fears to follow
    Where airy voices lead.
    • Bk. II, l. 211
  • 'Tis the pest
    Of love, that fairest joys give most unrest.
    • Bk. II, l. 365
  • To Sorrow
    I bade good-morrow,
    And thought to leave her far away behind;
    But cheerly, cheerly,
    She loves me dearly;
    She is so constant to me, and so kind:
    I would deceive her
    And so leave her,
    But ah! she is so constant and so kind.
    • Bk. IV, l. 173

La Belle Dame sans Merci (1819)

Full text online
O, what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing.
I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful — a faery's child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.
  • O, what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
    Alone and palely loitering?
    The sedge has wither'd from the lake,
    And no birds sing.
    • Stanza I
  • I met a lady in the meads,
    Full beautiful — a faery's child,
    Her hair was long, her foot was light,
    And her eyes were wild.
    • Stanza IV
  • I made a garland for her head,
    And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
    She look'd at me as she did love,
    And made sweet moan.
    • Stanza V
  • I saw pale kings and princes too,
    Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
    They cried- "La Belle Dame sans Merci
    Hath thee in thrall!"
    • Stanza X

Hyperion : A Fragment (1819)

Full text online
To bear all naked truths,
And to envisage circumstance, all calm,
That is the top of sovereignty.
  • Deep in the shady sadness of a vale
    Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
    Far from the fiery noon, and eve’s one star,
    Sat gray-hair’d Saturn, quiet as a stone,
    Still as the silence round about his lair;
    Forest on forest hung about his head
    Like cloud on cloud.
    • Bk. I, l. 1
  • As when, upon a tranced summer-night,
    Those green-rob’d senators of mighty woods,
    Tall oaks, branch-charmed by the earnest stars,
    Dream, and so dream all night without a stir,
    Save from one gradual solitary gust
    Which comes upon the silence, and dies off,
    As if the ebbing air had but one wave.
    • Bk. I, l. 72
  • For to bear all naked truths,
    And to envisage circumstance, all calm,
    That is the top of sovereignty.
    • Bk. II, l. 203
  • Knowledge enormous makes a God of me.
    • Bk. III, l. 113

Poems (1820)

“For cruel ’tis,” said she,
“To steal my Basil-pot away from me.”
Let me be thy choir, and make a moan
Upon the midnight hours.
  • And for her eyes: what could such eyes do there
    But weep, and weep, that they were born so fair?
  • Love in a hut, with water and a crust,
    Is — Love, forgive us! — cinders, ashes, dust.
    • "Lamia", Pt. II, l. 1
  • Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,
    Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
    Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine —
    Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
    The tender-person’d Lamia melt into a shade.
    • "Lamia", Pt. II, l. 234
  • St. Agnes’ Eve — Ah, bitter chill it was!
    The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
    The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
    And silent was the flock in woolly fold.
  • The music, yearning like a God in pain.
    • "The Eve of St. Agnes", st. 7
  • Sudden a thought came like a full-blown rose,
    Flushing his brow, and in his pained heart
    Made purple riot.
    • "The Eve of St. Agnes", st. 16
  • As though a tongueless nightingale should swell
    Her throat in vain, and die, heart-stifled, in her dell.
    • "The Eve of St. Agnes", st. 23
  • Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,
    And threw warm gules on Madeline’s fair breast,
    As down she knelt for heaven’s grace and boon;
    Rose-bloom fell on her hands, together prest.
    • "The Eve of St. Agnes", st. 25
  • Unclasps her warmed jewels one by one;
    Loosens her fragrant bodice; by degrees
    Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees.
    • "The Eve of St. Agnes", st. 26
  • And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep,
    In blanched linen, smooth, and lavender’d.
    • "The Eve of St. Agnes", st. 30
  • She hurried at his words, beset with fears,
    For there were sleeping dragons all around,
    At glaring watch, perhaps, with ready spears —
    Down the wide stairs a darkling way they found. —
    In all the house was heard no human sound.
    A chain-droop’d lamp was flickering by each door;
    The arras, rich with horseman, hawk, and hound,
    Flutter’d in the besieging wind’s uproar;
    And the long carpets rose along the gusty floor.
    • "The Eve of St. Agnes", st. 40
  • And they are gone: ay, ages long ago
    These lovers fled away into the storm.
    • "The Eve of St. Agnes", st. 42
  • So let me be thy choir, and make a moan
    Upon the midnight hours
  • And there shall be for thee all soft delight
    That shadowy thought can win,
    A bright torch, and a casement ope at night,
    To let the warm Love in!
    • "Ode to Psyche", st. 5
Souls of Poets dead and gone,
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy field or mossy cavern,
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?
  • Ever let the Fancy roam,
    Pleasure never is at home.
  • Bards of Passion and of Mirth,
    Ye have left your souls on earth!
    Have ye souls in heaven too,
    Double-lived in regions new?
    • "Ode", The Fair Maid of the Inn
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run...
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
  • Souls of Poets dead and gone,
    What Elysium have ye known,
    Happy field or mossy cavern,
    Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?
    Have ye tippled drink more fine
    Than mine host’s Canary wine?
  • Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
    Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
    Conspiring with him how to load and bless
    With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run
    To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
    And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
    To swell the ground, and plump the hazel shells
    With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
    And still more, later flowers for the bees,
    Until they think warm days will never cease,
    For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
  • Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
    Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
    Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
    Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
    Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
    Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
    Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers.
    • "To Autumn", st. 2
  • Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
    Among the river sallows, borne aloft
    Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies.
    • "To Autumn", st. 3
  • No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
    Wolfs-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
    Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss’d
    By nightshade.
  • But when the melancholy fit shall fall
    Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
    That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
    And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
    Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose.
    • "Ode on Melancholy", st. 2
  • She dwells with Beauty — Beauty that must die;
    And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
    Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
    Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips.
    Ay, in the very temple of Delight
    Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
    Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
    Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
    His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
    And be among her cloudy trophies hung.
    • "Ode on Melancholy", st. 3

Ode to a Nightingale

Ode to a Nightingale
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown...
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music: — Do I wake or sleep?
  • My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
    My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
    Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
    One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
    Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
    But being too happy in thine happiness, —
    That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
    In some melodious plot
    Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
    Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
    • Stanza 1
  • O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
    Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth.

    Tasting of Flora and the country green,
    Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
    O for a beaker full of the warm South,
    Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
    With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
    And purple-stained mouth.
    • Stanza 2
  • Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
    What thou among the leaves hast never known,
    The weariness, the fever, and the fret
    Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
    Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
    Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
    Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
    And leaden-eyed despairs.
    • Stanza 3
  • Already with thee! tender is the night.
    • Stanza 4
  • I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
    Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
    But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet.
    • Stanza 5
  • And mid-May’s eldest child,
    The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
    The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
    • Stanza 5
  • Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
    I have been half in love with easeful Death
    Call'd him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,
    To take into the air my quiet breath;
    Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
    To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
    While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
    In such an ecstasy!
    Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain —
    To thy high requiem become a sod.
    • Stanza 6
  • Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
    No hungry generations tread thee down;
    The voice I hear this passing night was heard
    In ancient days by emperor and clown
    Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
    Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
    She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
    The same that oft-times hath
    Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
    Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
    • Stanza 7
  • Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
    To toil me back from thee to my sole self!
    • Stanza 8
  • Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
    Fled is that music: — Do I wake or sleep?
    • Stanza 8

Ode on a Grecian Urn

Full text online
Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know
  • Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
    Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
    Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
    A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
    What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape?
    Of deities or mortals, or of both,
    In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
    What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
    What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
    What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
    • Stanza 1
  • Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
    Are sweeter: therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
    Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
    Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone.

    Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
    Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
    Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
    Though winning near the goal — yet, do not grieve;
    She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
    For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
    • Stanza 2
  • Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
    To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
    Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
    And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
    • Stanza 4
  • Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
    As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
    When old age shall this generation waste,
    Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
    Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
    "Beauty is truth, truth beauty," — that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
    • Stanza 5; The final lines of this poem have been rendered in various ways in different editions, some placing the entire last two lines within quotation marks, others only the statement "Beauty is truth, truth beauty," and others without any quotation marks. The poet's final intentions upon the matter before his death are unclear.

Quotes about Keats

  • A very odd young man, but good-tempered, and good-hearted, and very clever indeed.
    • Mrs. Maria Dilke, quoted in ‘Papers of a Critic’, by Sir Charles Dilke, I, p.8.
  • In the latter part of that year’s summer [1817] I first saw him. It was on the Hampstead road that we were introduced to each other…. …in that interview of a minute I inwardly desired his acquaintanceship, if not his friendship… He was small in stature, well proportioned, compact in form, and, though thin, rather muscular; — one of the many who prove that manliness is distinct from height and bulk. There is no magic equal to that of an ingenuous countenance, and I never beheld any human being’s so ingenuous as his. His full fine eyes were lustrously intellectual, and beaming (at that time!) with hope and joy. It has been remarked that the most faulty feature was his mouth; and, at intervals, it was so. But, whenever he spoke, or was, in any way, excited, the expression of the lips was so varied and delicate, that they might be called handsome.
  • Keats was in childhood not attached to books. His penchant was for fighting. He would fight any one – morning, noon, and night, his brother among the rest. It was meat and drink to him. Jennings their sailor relation was always in the thoughts of the brothers, and they determined to keep up the family reputation for courage; George in a passive manner; John and Tom more fiercely. The favourites of John were few; after they were known to fight readily he seemed to prefer them for a sort of grotesque and buffoon humour. I recollect at this moment his delight at the extraordinary gesticulations and pranks of a boy named Wade who was celebrated for this.... He was a boy whom any one from his extraordinary vivacity and personal beauty might easily fancy would become great — but rather in some military capacity than in literature.
    • Edward Holmes, a fellow pupil at Clarke's School in Enfield.
  • He was called by his fellow students 'little Keats,' being at his full growth no more than five feet high.... In a room, he was always at the window, peering into space, so that the windowseat was spoken of by his comrades as Keats’s place.... In the lecture room he seemed to sit apart and to be absorbed in something else, as if the subject suggested thoughts to him which were not practically connected with it. He was often in the subject and out of it, in a dreamy way.
    He never attached much consequence to his own studies in medicine, and indeed looked upon the medical career as the career by which to live in a workaday world, without being certain that he could keep up the strain of it. He nevertheless had a consciousness of his own powers, and even of his own greatness, though it might never be recognised.... Poetry was to his mind the zenith of all his aspirations: the only thing worthy the attention of superior minds: so he thought: all other pursuits were mean and tame. He had no idea of fame or greatness but as it was connected with the pursuits of poetry, or the attainment of poetical excellence…. He was gentlemanly in his manners and when he condescended to talk upon other subjects he was agreeable and intelligent. He was quick and apt at learning, when he chose to give his attention to any subject. He was a steady quiet and well behaved person, never inclined to pursuits of a low or vicious character.
    • Henry Stephens, a fellow student at Guy's Hospital.
  • He was under the middle height; and his lower limbs were small in comparison with the upper, but neat and well-turned. His shoulders were very broad for his size; he had a face, in which energy and sensibility were remarkably mixed-up, an eager power checked and made patient by ill-health. Every feature was at once strongly cut, and delicately alive. If there was any faulty expression, it was in the mouth, which was not without something of a character of pugnacity... The head was a particular puzzle for the phrenologist, being remarkably small in the skull; a singularity he has in common with Lord Byron and Mr Shelley, none of whose hats I could get on.
  • And don't you remember Keats proposing 'Confusion to the memory of Newton' and upon your insisting on an explanation before you drank it, his saying, 'Because he destroyed the poetry of the rainbow by reducing it to a prism ? Ah, my dear old friend, you and I shall never see such days again!
  • I remember… his first introduction to Mr. Haydon; and when in the course of conversation that great artist asked him, "if he did not love his country," how the blood rushed to his cheeks and the tears to his eyes, at his energetic reply. His love of freedom was ardent and grand.
  • He is studying closely, recovering his Latin, going to learn Greek, and seems altogether more rational than usual — but he is such a man of fits and starts he is not much to be depended on. Still he thinks of nothing but poetry as his being's end and aim, and sometime or other he will, I doubt not, do something valuable.
  • He, who is gone, was one of the very kindest friends I possessed, and yet he was not kinder perhaps to me, than to others. His intense mind and powerful feelings would, I truly believe, have done the world some service, had his life been spared — but he was of too sensitive a nature — and thus he was destroyed!
  • [Keats] was the very soul of courage and manliness, and as much like the holy Ghost as Johnny Keats.
    • George Keats.
  • When somebody expressed his surprise to Shelley, that Keats, who was not very conversant with the Greek language, could write so finely and classically of their gods and goddesses, Shelley replied "He was a Greek."
    • Richard H. Horne, in New Spirit of the Age (1844) Vol. 2

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun

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  1. A patronymic surname from a Middle English byname meaning "a kite (bird)".
  2. John Keats, English poet.



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