Term Paper on John Keats

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John Keats


English Literature Biographical Speech

Keats, John (1795-1821)

English poet, one of the most gifted and appealing of the 19th century and a seminal figure of the romantic movement.

Keats was born in London, October 31, 1795,and was the eldest of four children. His father
was a livery-stable owner, however he was killed in a riding accident when Keats was only
nine and his mother died six years later of tuberculosis. Keats was educated at the Clarke
School, in Enfield, and at the age of 15 was apprenticed to a surgeon. Subsequently, from
1814 to 1816, Keats studied medicine in London hospitals; in 1816 he became a licensed
apothecary (druggist) but never practiced his profession, deciding instead to be a poet.


Early Works

Keats had already written a translation of Vergil's Aeneid and some verse; his first
published poems (1816) were the sonnets "Oh, Solitude if I with Thee Must Dwell" and "On
First Looking into Chapman's Homer." Both poems appeared in the Examiner, a literary
periodical edited by the essayist and poet Leigh Hunt, one of the champions of the
romantic movement in English literature. Hunt introduced Keats to a circle of literary
men, including the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; the group's influence enabled Keats to see
his first volume published, Poems by John Keats (1817). The principal poems in the volume
were the sonnet on Chapman's Homer, the sonnet "To One Who Has Been Long in City Pent," "I
Stood Tip-Toe upon a Little Hill," and "Sleep and Poetry," which defended the principles
of romanticism as promulgated by Hunt and attacked the practice of romanticism as
represented by the poet George Gordon, Lord Byron.


Keats's second volume, Endymion, was published in 1818. Based upon the myth of Endymion
and the moon goddess, it was attacked by two of the most influential critical magazines of
the time, the Quarterly Review and Blackwood's Magazine. Calling the romantic verse of
Hunt's literary circle "the Cockney school of poetry," Blackwood's declared Endymion to be
nonsense and recommended that Keats give up poetry.


Last Works

In 1820 Keats became ill with tuberculosis. The illness may have been aggravated by the
emotional strain of his attachment to Fanny Brawne (1801-65), a young woman with whom he
had fallen passionately in love. Nevertheless, the period 1818-20 was one of great
creativity. In July 1820, the third and best of his volumes of poetry, Lamia, Isabella,
The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems, was published. The three title poems, dealing with
mythical and legendary themes of ancient, medieval, and Renaissance times, are rich in
imagery and phrasing. The volume also contains the unfinished poem "Hyperion," containing
some of Keats's finest work, and three poems considered among the finest in the English
language, "Ode to a Grecian Urn," "Ode on Melancholy," and "Ode to a Nightingale."


Death

In the fall of 1820, under his doctor's orders to seek a warm climate for the winter,
Keats went to Rome. He died there February 23, 1821, and was buried in the Protestant
cemetery. Some of his best-known poems were posthumously published; among them are "Eve of
St. Mark" (1848) and "La belle dame sans merci" (The Beautiful Woman Without Mercy; first
version pub. 1888). Keats's letters, praised by many critics as among the finest literary
letters written in English, were published in their most complete form in 1931; a later
edition appeared in 1960.


Although Keats's career was short and his output small, critics agree that he has a
lasting place in the history of English and world literature. Characterized by exact and
closely knit construction and by force of imagination, his poetry gives transcendental
value to the physical beauty of the world. His verbal music is well suited to the unique
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