Endymion: A Poetic Romance

by John Keats
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Please explain the first stanza of "Endymion" by Keats.

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The first stanza of "Endymion" presents the reader with the views of Keats on beauty and its value and its importance to humans. Beauty, in whatever form it may be found, is an eternal joy to humans, because it offers humans the constant opportunity to reflect on that beauty, which stands in such stark comparison to the monotony and ugliness of our everyday lives. In spite of all the difficulties and the sufferings that humans face, beauty has the ability to produce happiness and temporarily shift the burdens humans bear:

In spite of all

Some shape of beauty moves away the pall

From our dark spirits.

Keats therefore establishes that in his view of the world, life for humans consists of unremitting struggles and difficulties, and it is only beauty in its various guises that is able to shift those trials and temporarily at least produce happiness. The stanza concludes with a list of things that constitute "beauty" for Keats, which both include physical objects which are examples of natural beauty such as daffodils, but also beauty that can be found in art, such as "the lovely tales we have heard or read." All of these forms of beauty act as "an endless fountain of immortal drink," allowing humans to forget bleak reality and experience joy. The first stanza therefore focuses the reader on one of the themes of the text as a whole, which is the nature of happiness and how it can be experienced.

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