John Keats Poetry: British Analysis
To love and to work are, psychologists say, the principal concerns of early adulthood. In John Keats’s case, they became, as well, the dominant themes of his most important poetry. The work theme includes both the effort and the love of creating beauty and the immortality Keats longed for as recompense. Once, perhaps exaggerating, Keats wrote that “the mere yearning and fondness” he had “for the Beautiful” would keep him writing “even if [his] night’s labours should be burnt every morning and no eye ever shine upon them.” Not passing, however, was the tenacity of his ambition: “I would sooner fail than not to be among the greatest.” Keats’s quest for immortality takes several forms: It appears openly, especially in the sonnets and in “Ode on Indolence” and “Ode to Psyche” as the anxieties of ambition—being afforded the time, maintaining the will and energy, and, not least, determining the topic, or territory, for achievement. It includes a metamorphosis fantasy, whereby the young poet becomes deified or capable of immortal poetry through absorption of divinely granted knowledge. The ambition/work theme also takes a self-conscious turn in The Fall of Hyperion, questioning the value to a suffering humankind of the dreamer-poet’s life and work.
The love theme explores dreams of heterosexual bliss, but it also moves into the appropriate relationships to be had with art and nature. The imagination is the ally of...
(The entire section is 7149 words.)
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