What are two characteristics of Romanticism in John Keats' poetry? Give examples.

Quick answer:

One aspect of Romanticism that is seen in Keats's poetry is the predominance of the imagination. Another aspect that you might want to focus on in his poetry is the topic of beauty and how it relates to truth and mortality.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Keats famously wrote that  a poet was a kind of 'physician' to humanity whose job was to 'pour out a balm onto the world.' Of course, this 'balm' was created partly by a focus on nature as a source of solace to the sufferings and trials of life. This is an aspect of Romanticism that can most clearly be seen in 'Ode to a Nightingale' when the speaker achieves a transcended state and is able to fly with the nightingale metaphorically through his poetry:

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,

Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,

But on the viewless wings of Poesy,

Though the dull brain perplexeds and retards...

Thus poetry and its influence is able to help the speaker leave the earth, which is characterised as a place of 'no light' and of suffering in which man is forced to joylessly live until his death.

Another aspect of Romanticism which we can see in the poetry of Keats is the way that meditation on beauty can give us a real appreciation of life and the beauty within life. This can be seen in the focus on the eternal beauty in 'Ode to a Grecian Urn':

When old age shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,'--that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Note how beauty is shown to be able to instruct humanity on some important truths that are necessary for our survivial. The urn is therefore called 'a friend to man.'

Thus by its focus on the beauty of nature and its healing influence and the meditations on beauty, Keats establishes himself as a truly Romantic poet.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Discuss two characteristics of Romanticism in the Poetry of John Keats.

The previous post identifies very strong themes of Romantic Thought in Keats' work.  I would like to suggest two other elements.  One critical element of Romantic thought that can be seen in Keats' work is the idea of nostalgia for a past era.  Keats' had a fascination with the Greek culture and the Classical notion of "the good, the true, and the beautiful."  We can see this in his analysis of Chapman's translation of Homer and it is an evident idea in "Ode on a Grecian Urn."  The idea of using the Greek culture as a mirror for our current setting, reflecting from where to where we need to progress or how far off the mark we truly are is an element that is quite profound in Keats' work.  Along these lines, the Romantic hope of being able to expand the moral imagination to embrace a vision of what can be in juxtaposition to what is might be another critical element of Keats' work.  Once again, this can be seen in "Ode on a Grecian Urn," where Keats implies that the most profound elements of philosophical thought can be evident in an object that allows us to gaze into what can be from what is.  The transformative element of human imagination is another critical element in Romantic philosophy, and is something embodied in Keats' work.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Can you please give me two aspects of Romanticism that can be found in the poetry of John Keats?

Well, certainly John Keats is defined as the epitome of a Romantic poet. One aspect that is hard to ignore in his poetry is the predominance of the imagination. An excellent poem to use to talk about this aspect of Romanticism is "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer," which talks about when Keats first read a translation of Homer's Illiad  and how it came alive to him so vividly that he compares that moment to when new explorers look upon undiscovered plains:

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken;

Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes

He stared at the Pacific--and all his men

Looked at each otehr with a wild surmise--

Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Note the way that the imagination is celebrated in this flight of fancy. This is a key aspect of Romanticism, as the imagination and feeling is always much more important than reason.

Secondly, you might want to focus on the topic of beauty as discussed in "Ode on a Grecian Urn." This excellent Romantic ode focuses on the pictures painted on a Grecian urn and how they cause the speaker to meditate on beauty and its eternal nature. Note how the poem closes:

When old age shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,"--that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

There is a strange ambiguity in these lines, especially the quote of "Beauty is truth, truth beauty," which focuses our minds on the way inwhich the quest for beauty is positive in that the contemplation of ideal beauty gives us an experience of the timeless and eternal, but at the same time it is negative as such eternal beauty acts as a powerful reminder of our own ephemeral nature. Such discussions on beauty and its importance to our lives are another aspect of Romanticism.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on