"A Thing Of Beauty Is A Joy Forever"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In his first major poem, Keats gives a romantic treatment of the ancient Greek myth of Endymion, the beautiful boy loved by Diana. Keats shows a typically romantic interest in classical literature, and he embellishes the old myth with luxuriant language. Our souls, the poet says, are continually uplifted by "Some shape of beauty"–the sun, daffodils, a forest. Beauty also suffuses "the grandeur of the dooms/ We have imagined for the mighty dead;/ All lovely tales that we have heard or read:/ An endless fountain of immortal drink,/ Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink." These things of beauty "Haunt us till they become a cheering light/ Unto our souls," a light we cannot live without. The poet is happy to be beginning the story of Endymion in the country in the springtime, and he hopes to finish by autumn. The opening lines reveal Keats's conception of the Greek ideal of beauty:

A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.