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John Keats Selected Odes and Hyperion Book 1 (by Qaisar Iqbal Janjua)

John Keats Selected Odes and Hyperion Book 1 (by Qaisar Iqbal Janjua)

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Published by: Qaisar Iqbal Janjua on Jan 08, 2010
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Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 94 678qaisarjanjua@hotmail.com
SELECTED POEMS&Hyperion book I
 John Keats
“The humming of the bee, the sight of aflower, the glitter of the sun, seemed tomake his nature tremble, then his eyesflashed, his cheeks glowed and his mouthquivered.” 
 Hayden (a friend of Keats)
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 94 678qaisarjanjua@hotmail.com
 John Keats was born on 31 October 1795, the eldest son of Thomas and FrancesKeats: his brother George, was born in 1797, Tom was born in 1799 and his sister Fanny(Frances Mary), in 1803. Thomas Keats was the head ostler at his father-in-law's liverystables, the Swan and Hoop at Moor fields (now Moorgate), Finsbury, on the edge of theCity of London. He died on 16 April 1804 after falling from his horse, and just one yearlater Keats lost his grandfather John Jennings, with whom he had been living since hismother's remarriage. Five years later, Keats mother died from tuberculosis, a disease thatwas to kill one of Keats brothers and the poet himself. Provision had been made for thechildren, but the trustee Richard Abbey, proved reluctant to release funds, which, whencombined with legal wrangling, resulted in financial difficulties for Keats and hissiblings. Keats complained of “bill pestilence” and at times feared Debtor's prison:
“A few days ago we had but a few shillings left. [...] I have been in fear of Winchester Jail for some time”.
Another problem facing Keats was his status in society. In a recent biography ofKeats, Andrew Motion states: “Keats was unsure whether he was climbing out of theworking class, or likely to slip at any moment from the lower rungs of the middle class.”The introduction to Walter Jackson Bate's landmark biography of 1963 similarlyhighlights the “handicaps or restrictions” that hampered Keats. Bate wonders how Keatswas able to achieve so much given his distinct lack of advantages, especially with regardsto education. Keats did, however, attend the Rev. John Clarke's school at Enfield for eightyears. Initially lessons held little interest for Keats's lively disposition, but by the end ofhis time at Enfield he had won a number of prizes. Even though Keats left Enfield in thesummer of 1811 as an apprentice to Thomas Hammond, a surgeon in Edmonton, hefrequently returned to the school to discuss literature with the headmaster's son, CharlesCowden Clarke. In a verse-letter of September 1817, Keats wrote of his school friend:“You first taught me all the sweets of song”. An example of how influential Clarke wasin the early period of Keats's life is the composition of “On First Looking into Chapman'sHomer”; one night Clarke showed his friend Chapman's translation of Homer's Odyssey,and the next day Keats rose at dawn to write the famous sonnet.“On First Looking into Chapman's Homer” was published a few months later inLeigh Hunt's The Examiner. Keats had become familiar with the radical paper at theliberal school in Enfield, and his sonnet, “Written on the Day that Mr. Leigh Hunt leftprison”, marked the poet's release after being imprisoned for libelling the Prince Regent.Clarke had initially introduced the two men, and Keats prophesied that meeting Hunt“will be an era in my existence”. Hunt was a vigorous supporter of young poets, and hishigh opinion of Keats's poetry is evident in the final couplet of his sonnet “To JohnKeats”: “I see even now,/ Young Keats, a flowering laurel on your brow.” Keatsregularly visited Hunt's home in Hampstead and wrote of this time: “For I am brimful ofthe friendliness/ That in a little cottage I have found”. During this period, Keats metmost of his future circle, including Benjamin Robert Haydon, Benjamin Bailey, CharlesBrown and John Hamilton Reynolds. Some of these acquaintances proved advantageousin terms of connections: through Hunt, Keats was introduced to Percy Shelley and theessayist William Hazlitt, while Haydon, who compared “Keats's genius” toWordsworth's, introduced the two poets. When Haydon sent a copy of the sonnet, “GreatSpirits now on Earth are sojourning” to Wordsworth, Keats expressed his regard for theolder poet: “the very idea of your sending this to Wordsworth puts me out of breath: youknow with what reverence I would send my well-wishes to him”. Wordsworth praisedthe sonnet as “vigorously conceived and well expressed”, but was later to dismiss Keats's“Hymn to Pan” (from Endymion) as “A Very pretty piece of Paganism”. It was, however,
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 94 678qaisarjanjua@hotmail.com
a close group of companions who supported Keats throughout his life. Bailey wrote tothe Oxford Herald, championing Keats's poetry as “the richest promise I ever saw of anethereal imagination maintained by vast intellectual power”, while Reynoldsremembered Keats as “the most loveable associate, – the deepest Listener to the grief’sand disappointments of all around him”, who also had “the greatest power of poetry inhim, of any one since Shakespeare”.Keats exclaimed with enthusiasm: “What a time! I am continually running awayfrom the subject”. This receptive period culminated on 3 March 1817 with the publicationof a volume of verse entitled Poems. Keats's friends recognised the potential in this work,but the volume elicited little response from the reviewers. The publishers of Poems,Charles and James Ollier, were unimpressed by its poor reception, and declined anyfurther connection with the young poet. Keats himself acknowledged the immaturity ofthe volume and fixed on the idea of proving himself by writing an epic poem. Keatsconceived Endymion as “a test, a trial of my Powers of Imagination and chiefly of myinvention”. Keats felt the discrepancy between his vision of poetry and his competencywith the craft: “the idea has grown so monstrously beyond my seeming power ofattainment”. In tracing the changing fortunes of the shepherd king of Greek legend fromhero to dejected lover, Keats subjects himself to the trials of poet hood. The question herecalls to Hunt – “I have asked myself so often why I should be a Poet more than othermen” – is echoed throughout Endymion:
“And thoughts of self came on, and how crude and soreThe journey homeward to habitual self!O 'tis a very sin For one so weak to venture his poor verse,” 
The poem does, however, progress through seasons of growth, albeit tentative,towards the promise of a harvest: “all the good I expect from my employment thissummer is the fruit of Experience which I hope to gather in my next Poem”.Endymion was published in April 1818 by John Taylor and James Hessey. WhereasPoems elicited few or generally favourable responses (the Monthly Magazine praised “arapturous glow and intoxication of the fancy”), Endymion was the subject of scorn. Thepoem itself was deemed to be the “gross slang of voluptuousness”, but the worst attackswere aimed at Keats's “Upstart” pretensions and his involvement with Hunt (to whomhe had dedicated Poems). The Tory reviewers objected to the “vulgarity” of Hunt's verse,and John Wilson Croker, writing for the Quarterly Review, complained that Keats wasmerely “a copyist of Mr. Hunt”. In attempting to defend Endymion, Taylor wrote to thepoet John Clare (for whom he also acted as publisher): “it has been thought necessary inthe leading Review, the Quarterly, to damn his [poetry] for imputed political Opinions –Damn them who could act in so cruel a way to a young man of undoubted Genius”. Itwas, however, Keats's “lowly” origins that attracted the most scathing criticism; writingfor Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, John Gibson Lockhart not only mocked the“Cockney rhymes” of Poems and Endymion, but also ridiculed Keats's medical training(after studying at Guy's Hospital in London, he was eligible to practise as an apothecary,physician or surgeon): “It is a better and a wiser thing to be a starved apothecary than astarved poet; so back to the shop Mr John, back to 'plasters, pills, and ointment boxes'”.Such condescension was not limited to the Tory reviewers. While Byron took exceptionto “Johnny Keats’ p-ss a bed poetry”, his disdain for “that dirty little blackguard”conveys distinct class connotations; similarly, Walter Scott castigated Keats’ “insulting”aspirations.Keats responded to the criticism of his experimental poem with apparentequanimity: “This is a mere matter of the moment – I think I shall be among the EnglishPoets after my death.” The impact of these attacks has often been exaggerated, largelydue to Shelley's version of events in his elegy to Keats, “Adonias” (1821). Shelley exacted

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