Remembering John Keats (1795 -1821) I Oxford Open Learning

    John Keats

    Remembering John Keats (1795 -1821)

    John Keats was an English Romantic poet and author of three poems considered to be among among the finest in the English language. Keats was the eldest of four children, being born on 31 October 1795 in London to parents Frances Jennings Keats and Thomas Keats.

    Keats wrote three types of poems, known as sonnets, odes, and epics. A sonnet is a fourteen line poem with a fixed rhyme scheme. An ode is a formal, often ceremonious lyric poem that addresses and often celebrates a person, place, thing, or idea. An epic is a lengthy, narrative work of poetry.

    The Background Of John Keats

    Keats was apprenticed to a surgeon in 1811, but broke off the apprenticeship in 1814 and went to London, where he worked as a dresser, or junior house surgeon, at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ hospitals. He earned his apothecary license in 1816, but he never practiced his profession, choosing instead to write poetry, his passion.

    His work was much influenced by John Clarke, Headmaster of Enfield Academy, the school he attended from 1803 to 1811 and also by English poet John Milton (9 December 1608 – 8 November 1674). Keats published fifty-four poems, in three slim volumes and a few magazines. His work was crafted with great awareness, insight and emotion about beauty and art, love and loss, suffering and nature. Here are three of his well-known pieces of work:

    ‘Ode to Psyche’

    This piece was written in spring 1819 and was the first of Keats’s famous odes, published in 1820, appearing in his final collection titled Lamia, Isabella. A wandering speaker finds Psyche (Goddess of the soul) sleeping in the arms of Eros (God of love). Taken by Psyche’s beauty, the speaker vows to build her a temple from his imagination. The poem is a celebration of the imagination’s mysterious and yet amazing creative powers.

    ‘Bright Star’

    Written in 1819, this love sonnet that begins “Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art” is one of Keats’ best-loved poems. Keats was deeply in love with Fanny Brawne when this poem was written and this is reflected in the talk about eternity and the speaker wishing to be a bright star but not to exist as a lonely entity.

    ‘To Autumn’

    Inspired by his daily walks in and around Winchester, his poem ‘To Autumn’ praises autumnal abundance and harvest, and the transition into winter, using imagery to elevate the fleeting beauty of the moment. The piece was the last major work that he completed before his death in Rome, in 1821.

    If you are interested to know more about John Keats and his work, his London home between 1818 and 1820, Keats House, is now a museum dedicated to the popular poet.

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