Saturday, October 30, 2010

Essay on John Keats

Essay on John Keats

John Keats was born on October 31, 1795. He was the oldest of five siblings. One of them, Edward died at infancy. He lived a happy childhood in North London. His father Thomas Keats and his mother Frances Jennings owned a livery business called the “Swan and Hoop”. John was a very unique boy. He would answer people by rhyming the last word of his answer to the last word to their question.

John really enjoyed doing this, which paid off later in his life. Keats loved his mother very much and was very protective of her. Keat’s family wasn’t rich but they were well off. When Keats was 9 years old, his father fell off his horse on the way home and died several hours later. Jennings misery didn’t last long and she soon married a minor bank clerk named William Rawlings. Rawlings only wanted money and they broke up shortly after. After this, John’s mother disappeared. This caused Keats to lose his respect and hope for his mother.

During this time, the Keats children were sent to their grandparents John and Alice Jennings in Enfield. At Enfield he had a great teacher named John Clarke. Clarke went past the curriculum and as a result, Keats had a good education. John Keats and his siblings were quite popular at school also. John was known as a fighter and was very courageous and aggressive but also sensitive. He did not fit the stereotype for a future poet and at that time people were thought to be born poets and not made into one. John Jennings died in March 1805 and their financial situation began to plummet. John Jennings had been a loving man but he was also gullible enough to hire a land surveyor instead of a lawyer to draft his will. As a result, the will wasn’t very specific. The rest of Keats' life became a struggle for money. His mother soon turned up sick and tired. Keats whole attitude changed and he focused primarily on pleasing his mother and making her proud. He read all the time and studied very hard. He was awarded the school prize for best literary work of that year. Around this time, Keats had read almost every single book in his school’s library. His mother became very proud in him indeed. However, she soon died from tuberculosis when John was 14. His grandmother granted Richard Abbey as the guardian of the children. It was a terrible decision and because of the vague will, Abbey often deliberately withheld the children’s money. He was unsympathetic to the children and once referred to one of Keats’ poems as, “a horse that you cannot catch and isn’t any good once you catch it.”



John Keats wrote his first poem at 19 years old just before his grandmother died. Keats wanted to be a poet but he knew that poetry is a privilege to the wealthy who do not have to work and can afford to indulge in word play. This was a very hard decision for Keats and to make it even worse, Abbey withdrew John and one of his brothers George from school and apprenticed John as an apothecary. John was part of the beginning of the Romantic period of poetry. Technique and common sense was in the past prized higher than inspiration and passion. Romantic poets began to spring up but their works were still disliked and thus it was very hard to make a decent living. There was also another popular form of poetry that tried to be romantic by glorifying things that weren’t so great. Keats took his work after a minor poet named Leigh Hunt whom he admired. Cowden Clark, a friend of John Keats, had read some of Keats’ work and was impressed by it. He then took some of John’s poems that he owned and brought them to a friend of his, who just happened to be Leigh Hunt. Hunt loved it and immediately asked Clark to bring him over to meet with Keats. Hunt and Keats became friends and Hunt would later prove very influential to Keats’ writing, for Hunt became a devoted critic.

John Keats then decided to end his medical career. He also had a friend name Benjamin Bailey with whom he went to stay at Oxford. Bailey was very well off and Keats enjoyed his stay. The campus was a quiet and peaceful place, where he could write poems and then take long walks with Bailey, discussing his works. Bailey was deep into studying theology and often had religious talks with Keats. Also, evidence shows that while at Oxford, Keats may have contracted a venereal disease. He began to take mercury (which had many terrible side effects) to try and cure it. Later, Keats regretfully moved back to London with his two brothers George and Tom. Tom then became very ill and soon died of tuberculosis. George met a woman and planned to marry her in America. John was lonely and all the rest of his family was gone. John Keats’ and his neighbor Fanny Brawne fell deeply in love and got engaged in 1819. However, the previous year on a trip to Scotland, signs of sickness started growing in Keats. They then moved to Italy, in September 1820 while still keeping secretly engaged. In February 1821, John Keats died peacefully in Rome of tuberculosis.

John Keats’ poem ‘Robin Hood’, was actually a letter to his friend John H. Reynolds. It’s a sad and melancholy poem comparing the days of Robin Hood and his band of outlaws to the days Keats lived in. Legend says that Robin Hood was an outlaw and a thief who stole from the wealthy. But to the villagers and peasants, he was a hero. Keats expresses how Robin Hood is almost like a hero to him also because of his lack of money throughout his entire life. Keats goes into telling about the medieval times and how honorable they were. He then talks about how if Robin and his crew were alive now, they would despair for things had drastically changed since their times. It sorrowfully explains how Robin would find all of his oaks cut down and used for industrial purposes. The industrial revolution was also going on during Keats’ life. Keats describes how the poor have no choice but to live a terrible life whereas in the middle ages you could grow things for yourself and live in the peaceful forest with Robin and his band.

In the poem, Keats shows skill at rhyming every line. He got a lot of practice during his childhood where he would rhyme his answer with the question anybody asked him. Keats is also a very descriptive writer and he uses metaphors in the line, “Of the forest’s whispering fleeces,” and in, “Many times have winter’s shears,”. They describe how the leaves on a tree form a coat and the sound of the wind going through that coat. The other describes how winter “shears” away plants and life like a shepherd cutting wool. When winter comes, all the green is drawn away to leave white and brown.

The 3rd stanza refers to the polar ray as the North Star. It says that you can look forever (using the North as a guide) and you will never find Robin Hood or anybody else like him anymore. Those days are gone now. Keats was a very educated person and he uses a couple references to medieval mythology. It mentions, “Gamelyn” who was a hero in a fourteenth century outlaw tale. Keats wouldn’t have known so much if it weren’t for his love of reading. At the end of the poem, Keats honors the times and people of Robin Hood’s days. He then states “Though their days have hurried by, let us two a burden try.” This means that even though that time period has gone by quickly, let Keats and the reader try as much as possible to bring back that kind of honor and merriment.

The poem ‘On Death’, is one of Keats’ shortest and most meaningful poems. It asks that what if death is really sleep and life is just a dream. The great times of our lives may just be imaginary like a phantom. We think that it is painful to die, but what if it is just the end of a dream. Keats shows how we all live great our lives while poisoning them with our immense fear of death. But would it be so terrible still, if you were only waking up?

Keats uses a great simile in the line, “And scenes of bliss pass as a phantom by,”. It refers to the beautiful things in our life that we value so greatly as a phantom or ghost. Phantoms cannot be touched or moved, they are only images. What if the people that you see around you are not really there and you are really just imagining them while you sleep in reality.

The idea that Keats is conveying is probably something that he truly believed in. This theory reassured Keats when most of his family died while he was still very young. When his father died when Keats was only 9 years old, he was only able to cope with the shock by imagining that his father was not in pain and was only waking up from a dream. Any death or tragedy that came to Keats, he could just deal with it like a bad dream and it will be over eventually. Keats was so aggressive and known to be a “fighter” because he wasn’t afraid to die. He would welcome death if it came. Keats did not feel like there was no greater pain than to die. He thought life continued on and got better. The Author also advise people not to be so afraid and says that we lead a life of sorrow and pain when the people we love die and when we become ill or close to death ourselves. We should instead be happy for them and go on with our lives and try to live up to their standards.

‘How many bards gild the lapses of time!’ was one of Keats’ earlier poems and one of Leigh Hunt’s favorites. Keats often, in his works, refers to poets as bards. The title and the first sentence say that there are so many poets that glorify the passing of time and the many intertwined events that take place. Keats states how, out of all of these poets, he only likes a few of them. He can get lost in the beauty of the poems. However, Keats states that when he sits down to write, he listens to what is going around him and sees the simplicity and beauty in the sounds of nature. These things do not bother him or hinder him from writing, they aid it. Keats likes to write about surroundings in which people live in and delve deeper into the simple things while other poets tell about events and comparisons of time periods.

Keats not only uses imagery in this, but he also talks about how he uses it in many other of his works. Keats really likes to use the images and sounds of nature in many of his poems. He creates wonderful mental images of the beauty of nature. Keats uses these for example in “The songs of birds- the whisp’ring of the leaves, The voice of waters-the great bell that heaves,”. The Author also sometimes uses personification to better describe the actions of nature. He uses it in, “the whisp’ring of the leaves”. That adds so much feeling to the descriptive, and the sound and image that you create becomes more dramatic.

Keats wonderful technique is very unique. As a kid he was known to be a sensitive person. Keats didn’t follow the obvious and sought further meaning into things around him. Keats listened to sounds a different way than everyone else did. He heard music instead of noise. Being a romantic poet, Keats loved and honored the olden days. But also being born during a time of great industrialism, harmony and nature were not paid much attention to. Some of the most enjoyable times were spent during Keats’ stay at Oxford with his friend Bailey. It was very quiet there even indoors. There, Keats could concentrate on his poems without disturbance yet also watch and listen to the peaceful things around him. Eventually Keats left Oxford and moved back to London where he hated it because it was very cramped and noisy. John became truly grateful of nature and peace.

‘To Autumn’ was one of Keats’ last poems. It has a deep feeling of serenity, freshness and abundance. Yet at the same time it shows decaying and the passing of something. Autumn is the time of harvesting and is also when there is the “most food on the table”. The glee and happiness is clearly shown in the tone of the poem. The Author describes also how Autumn is passing of summer and green life and the bringing of a dark cold winter. Autumn takes the summer’s warmth and rips down the leaves.

Keats wonderfully intertwines lots of imagery and tone in each stanza. The first stanza demonstrates how plentiful and fruity the beginning of autumn is. Imagery is used well in this stanza, especially in “And fill all fruits with ripeness to the core, To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells.” Then, in the second stanza, the tone changes slightly to a period of excess food and a great store of food in the granary. Keats also mentions a girl and how she watches a cider-press squeezing out the last of the juice. The tone dramatically changes in the third stanza. It becomes almost like a call of someone not wanting summer to leave and fearing the winter. That person notices the dark change and knows what follows it. Imagery is used to describe the birds that flock to fly south of the coming cold and the shortening of the days.

The idea that John Keats was trying to portray was that everything dark has a purpose. Spring wouldn’t be that invigorating if hadn’t seen winter for a while. Would we really appreciate light if we had never seen dark? Life wouldn’t be nearly as treasured if we never knew what death was. Dark things make people very grateful for the good things that they had. Keats really understood this and secretly summarized his life in this poem. Keats lost many of his family and friends. As a result, no mater what situation that Keats was in he was still glad to be alive. Keats was very grateful of the luxuries he had during his stay at Oxford, unlike most other people there, because he had witnessed poverty. The wealthy aren’t truly grateful unless they have been poor for a while.

‘Ode to Apollo’ displayed Keats’ great respect for many well-known poets. Apollo is the god of the arts including poetry and music. There is also a lot of history involved in ‘Ode to Apollo’. Keats had a very good education as a child and was thirsty for knowledge. Keats knew a lot about Greek mythology and culture thus giving the poem a very ancient feeling tone. The author once again refers to poets as bards throughout the literary work.

In the line “whose chords are solid rays, and twinkle radiant fires,” a metaphor describes Apollo’s harp as having strings made of the suns rays. Keats also uses stanzas to individually describe seven poets. The poets are Apollo, Homer, Maro, Milton, Shakespeare, Spenser, and Tasso. All of these poets were highly admired by Keats. Irony is used when Keats describes Homer in “Looks through renovated eyes”. This is situational irony because Homer was blind.

The last stanza separates itself from the rest of the poem. In it, Keats states that the bards mentioned in the poem all had lineage with Apollo. This clearly shows that Keats highly admired these poets. When Keats read most of the books in the entire library of his school, he probably did the best thing he ever did to aid his career. He shows advanced knowledge of Apollo and the other poets in ‘Ode to Apollo’. These poets’ style often appears in many of John Keats’ poems. When Keats liked what he saw he adapted some of their technique.

John’s life was full of many hardships and difficulties that would be almost impossible for anyone to normally bear. However, Keats was able to go on with his life and cage up his emotions. When he writes, Keats puts his entire mood into the work. Those emotions can be traced through the poem and they add true passion to his works. Using this style, Keats wrote some of the best literary works ever created.

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