by François Matthey In the following essay, Matthey argues that Keats employs within his poetry an increasingly complex

structure, characterized by "rising and falling" imagery and symmetrical patterns, in order to complement the themes of the poems and heighten their emotional effects. by Priscilla Weston Tate In the following essay, Tate explores how Keats's later poems reinforce his "myth of the poet." Tate explains that several major themes—including identity, "soulmaking," the visionary nature of a poet's quest, the role of the imagination, and the relationship between beauty and truth— exemplify Keats's belief that the role of the poet is to achieve a "mythic understanding of human life."

by Jerome McGann In the following essay, McGann first reviews the principles of historical literary analysis and then argues for the significance and necessity of using the historical approach in studying Keats's work, despite the "virtually unanimous decision of Western literary critics " that historical analysis is irrelevant to the understanding of Keats's poetry. by Margaret Homans In the following essay, Homans examines the reaction of female readers of Keats to his poetry, and observes the manner in which Keats viewed females and female readers. Homans also studies Keats's letters to Fanny Brawne, noting how he objectified and distanced himself from her; Homans compares this tendency to Keats's resentment of the power of female readers and to his attempts to exclude female readers from having access to his poetry. by Marjorie Levinson In the following excerpt, Levinson surveys aspects of Keats's life and writing within their original social context and studies the relationship between his life and works, noting that Keats was born into a lower social class than many other Romantics, including Wordsworth, Byron, and Shelley. After discussing the way social disadvantages affected Keats's writing, Levinson reviews some of the early criticism of Keats's work, particularly that of Byron. by Vincent Newey In the following essay, Newey explores the influence of other poets' political ideals on Keats and argues that Keats was "rather more conservative in outlook than is commonly assumed. " Newey states that despite Keats's "libertarianism and exposure of abuses," he appears to have assumed

the superiority of the English over other cultures while favoring democratic, anti-authoritarian ideals. by Wolf Z. Hirst In the following essay, Hirst demonstrates the significance of Keats's letters, asserting that within them, Keats reveals the details of his theories regarding "negative capability, " "soul-making," and the "truth of Imagination." by Richard Harter Fogle In the following excerpt, published originally in 1949, Fogle examines the characteristics of what many critics describe as the "concreteness" of Keats's imagery. Fogle demonstrates that Keats's technique of focusing his perceptions upon single objects results in the extraction of "the last drop of beauty and meaning" and also affects the metrical structure of the poetry.

by A. E. Eruvbetine In the following examination of the function of beauty in Keats's poetry, Eruvbetine maintains that beauty is idealized by Keats because it serves as the medium for apprehending truth. While Keats resolves beauty and truth into one aesthetic ideal, Eruvbetine explains, beauty is the primary concept and the focus of the ideal.

by Jack Stillinger In the following essay, Stillinger asserts that poetry should be read as fiction, in the sense that poems have plots, characters, points-of-view, and settings. Stillinger then reviews the several plots of Keats's poetry, arguing that examining the poems as narratives may yield a more complete understanding of them. by John A. Minahan In the following essay, Minahan investigates the various functions of music in Keats's poetry, noting that music serves as an enjoyable escape, as a magical, "special" experience, and as an imaginative experience which offers insight into the ordinary. Minahan also observes the connection between music and one of Keats's most lauded ideals, truth.

by Walter Jackson Bate In the following excerpt, originally published in 1945, Bate analyzes the style and structure of Keats's early poetry, particularly the sonnets. Bate explores the influence of Leigh Hunt, most notably in Keats's word and image choices, and in Keats's use of the caesura and metrical variations.

by A. E. Eruvbetine In the following essay, Eruvbetine examines Keats's conception of the poetic imagination, stating that to Keats, the poetic imagination enabled the poet to "suspend his rigid instinctive and egotistical identity," and to become his subject by exploring and capturing the distinctive characteristics of the subject. Eruvbetine identifies several qualities of Keats's poetic imagination and argues that Endymion illustrates the qualities and function of the imagination. by Nicholas Roe In the following essay, Roe suggests that one of the reasons Keats's politics and poetry were largely neglected by his contemporaries, and why his political interests are rarely recognized even today, was due to an effort by critics such as John Lockhart to discredit Keats as a man and a poet. Roe maintains that Lockhart and others took such measures because they recognized Keats's potential for subversiveness, and for threatening the "discourse of masculine authority" and the &...

by Samuel C. Chew and Richard D. Altick In the following essay, originally published in 1948, Chew and Altick offer a brief overview of Keats's life and works. The critics conclude by observing the impact of Keats on Victorian arts and literature.

by Patricia M. Ball In the following excerpt from her chapter, Ball argues that Keats 's poetry is marked by both egotism, in the poet's focus on his poetic vision as well as his own emotional needs, and by his chameleon-like response to his subject matter, that is, his ability to identify with and lose himself in the object of the poetry.

by Karla Alwes In the following essay, Alwes surveys Keats 's treatment of women in his poetry, asserting that the female is exploited "not only as an ideal to be achieved but as an obstacle to that achievement. " Alwes states that in Keats's poetry women symbolize the imagination and all it entails, from the joy of creation to the fear over its possible loss.

by Morris Dickstein In the following lecture, given in 1983 and published in 1986, Dickstein argues that critics have wrongly "walled off Keats from the unseemly political passions of his contemporaries, " and goes on to identify the political aspects of Keats's poetry. John Whale locates Keats' poetry and letters in his contemporary friendship groupings and forms of masculinity. Whale addresses all the major poems, gives due prominence to the letters, and provides a case for understanding the role played by many lesser known poems, thereby offering a new understanding of Keats' exploration of poetry, love and desire.


Ode to a Nightingale is a poem by John Keats. It was written in May, 1819, in the garden of the Spaniards Inn, Hampstead. It was first published in 'Annals of the Fine Arts' in July of the same year. Referred to by critics of the time as "the longest and most personal of the odes," the poem describes Keats' journey into the state of Negative Capability. The poem explores the themes of nature, transience and mortality, the latter being the most personal to Keats, making a direct reference to the death in 1818 of his brother, Tom. In the poem, Keats imagines the loss of the physical world, and sees himself dead--he uses an abrupt, almost brutal word for it--as a "sod" over which the nightingale sings. The contrast between the immortal nightingale and mortal man, sitting in his garden, is made all the more acute by an effort of the imagination (102). The presence of weather is noticeable in the poem, as spring came early in 1819, which brought nightingales all over the heath. According to Keats' friend, Charles Armitage Brown, a nightingale had built its nest near his home in the spring of 1819. Keats felt a "tranquil and continual joy in her song; and one morning he took his chair from the breakfast table to the grass plot under a plum tree, where he sat for two of three hours." [1]

Brief analysis
The ode consists of eight stanzas, each containing ten lines. The rhyme scheme (ababcdecde) has a link to the sonnet form, with each stanza uniting a Shakespearian quatrain (abab) with a Petrarchan sestet (cdecde). This stanzaic prosody is characteristic of Keats's odes, and may well have evolved from his intensive work and theory on the sonnet form (see, for example, "If by Dull Rhymes our English Must be Chained"). The opening lines of the poem make use of heavy vowel sounds to slow them down (eg. "heart", "aches", "drowsy", and "numbness"). The Hippocrene, referenced in the second stanza, is the legendary fountain of the muses, located on Mt. Helicon. Keats' relationship with the bird clearly changes as the text progresses and his consciousness drifts into a dreaming, imaginative space. In the first stanza, Keats refers to it with

awe, using phrases such as "Light-winged Dryad of the trees," but by the seventh stanza refers to it simply as "bird". Indeed, in the final stanza the speaker addresses the animal as "deceiving elf", implying irritation at the nightingale's hypnotic song for the effect it had on him. Similarly, his views about the nightingale's song change as the poem progresses, the description "high requiem" giving way to "plaintive anthem" in the final stanza. Heidi Scott indicates that the turn in the poem occurs when Keats repeats the word "Forlorn!" between the penultimate and final stanzas.[2] He is wakened from his close reverie with the bird by the sound of the word "forlorn", and he finds the bird flying away from the poetic dreamspace that provided the atmosphere of most of the ode. Keats's confusion marks the closing lines of the poem, in which he asks: "Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Fled is that music:– Do I wake or sleep?"

Both the third and sixth stanzas contain references to mortality. The third stanza discusses the death of Keats's brother, Tom, while the sixth expresses Keats' own fear of death. "Half in love with easeful death", found in the sixth stanza, shows his fear, not of death, but of a slow, painful one from Consumption (the illness was common in his family, and by this point he had already begun to show the earliest signs of the disease). "Soft names," on the following line, is almost like the communication between two lovers. "Seems it rich to die" demonstrates the level of ecstasy he is experiencing, that a man so much in love with life would welcome death. The stanza finishes on an anti-climax with the deliberately clumsy "sod."

Synesthetic metaphor
The poet makes use of synesthetic metaphor throughout the ode to demonstrate the speaker's confusion. For example, in the second stanza, the protagonist expresses a longing for "a draught of vintage". However the description of the taste he desires is not commonly associated with a beverage. He demands that it taste "of Flora and the country green", Flora being the goddess of flowers. He also requests that it taste of "Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth", implying that there is a wine he drank there that conjures vivid recollections of a holiday. In the fifth stanza he claims that he cannot see "what soft incense hangs upon the boughs". Of course, incense would be smelt, not seen; the implication here is that the hallucination is so vivid he would almost be able to see smells and sounds, if it were not for the lack of light.

John Keats' poem "Ode to a Nightingale" explores the paradoxes of immortality and death, beauty and truth, and imagination and reality. Its main concept is about temporary changes in life, such as those brought about by art forms that take one away from reality

into a world of imagination and fantasy, only to return the individual to the world. The nightingale in the poem serves as a metaphor for immortality; nature is always dying but always alive, forever changing but always the same. An analysis of the poem "Ode to A Nightingale" by John Keats, in which Keats' detailed descriptions contrast natural beauty and reality, as well as life and death. In the poem, the nightingale's peaceful song captivates the writer and becomes a powerful spell that transcends Keats' mortal world; the song has the capability to bring listeners through hard journeys, easing the pain and suffering of life's travails. Much like Coleridge, Keats harnesses the power of his imagination and uses it to escape the confines of his prison like reality, the difference being Coleridge comes out of his journey with a new way of thinking and a positive outlook on his current situation, where as Keats is returned to his original state, disoriented and unsure if he is sleeping or awake. John Keats died in Rome. He had arrived several months earlier and was already in the advanced stages of tuberculosis when he took lodgings with his artist friend, Joseph Severn, in a house beside the Spanish Steps. After he died, the house became an unofficial shrine to both him and Shelley - who died in Italy 18 months later. In 1903, the house was saved from destruction by a campaign, backed by the Italian King, President Roosevelt and Edward VII.

ODE ON A GRECIAN URN The ode is an ancient form originally written for musical accompaniment. The word itself is of Greek origin, meaning "sung." While ode-writers from antiquity adhered to rigid patterns of strophe, anti strophe, and epode, the form by Keats's time had undergone enough transformation that it really represented a manner-rather than a set methodfor writing a certain type of lyric poetry. ODE ON MELANCOLY The "Ode on Melancholy" was originally to have begun with the following stanza, later canceled by the poet: Though you should build a bark of dead men's bones, And rear a phantom gibbet for a mast, Stitch creeds together for a sail, with groans To fill it out, bloodstained and aghast; Although your rudder be a dragon's tail Long sever'd, yet still hard with agony, Your cordage large uprootings from the skull Of bald Medusa.


John Keats, today renowned as a leading poet of the Romantic movement, was viciously snubbed by many contemporary critics and by other poets. During his lifetime, Keats struggled against the obstacles of his lower-middle class social standing, limited education, early association with the "Cockney School" of poetry, and poor health, as he sought to develop his skills as a poet and advance his poetical theories. Even after his premature death at the age of twenty-five, and well into the nineteenth century, Keats's poetry continued to be disparaged as overly sensitive, sensuous, and simplistic. By the twentieth century, however, his position within the Romantic movement had been revalued by critics. Keats continues to draw scholarly, critical, and popular attention. Issues examined by modern critics include Keats's political leanings; his theories regarding poetic imagination and "negative capability"; the rapid development of his poetry from the Cockney style to his more complex efforts, such as Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, and his later odes; and Keats's treatment of women in his poetry.

Biographical Information
Keats, the oldest of four children, was born in London in 1795 into a working, middle-class family. He lost both his parents at an early age; his father died when Keats was seven, and his mother died six years later. The Keats children were then placed within the care of a guardian. While attending the Clarke school in Enfield, Keats did not display any proclivity toward literature until the age of fifteen, when his friend Charles Cowden Clarke, the son of the school's headmaster, helped to interest Keats in mythology and travel-lore. At about the same time, Keats's guardian apprenticed the teenager to an apothecary-surgeon. Keats entered medical school and in 1816 passed the examinations required to become a surgeon. That same year, Keats met Leigh Hunt, who published the liberal journal the Examiner. In 1817, Keats published a volume of poems, which is typically characterized as an immature effort, although the few reviews the volume received were not wholly unfavorable. The 1818 publication of Endymion is regarded as a transitional effort by Keats, in which the influence of Hunt and his Cockney style is still detected in the use of colloquialisms, and in the luxurious and sentimental style. Yet the poem also displays an increasing level of skill and maturity that would culminate in Keats's next volume of poetry, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems (1820). This publication would also be Keats's last; shortly after the publication of Endymion, the first symptoms of tuberculosis, the disease that had killed his mother and his brother Tom, began to trouble Keats. In the autumn of 1820, in an effort to stabilize his health in Italy's fair climate, Keats left England, what remained of his family, and his love, Fanny Brawne. Keats died in Rome five months later.

Major Works
Endymion, while still displaying some of the flaws of Keats's earlier poetry, was also graced with mythological, poetical, and artistic imagery. The story itself, chronicling the love of Endymion and Diana, is based in myth, although Keats's knowledge of it was taken from other English renderings of the myth, as Keats never learned Greek. The primary theme of the poem has been described by critics Samuel C. Chew and Richard D. Altick (1948) as "the quest of a unity transcending the flux of the phenomenal world." Keats's Hyperion, published in his 1820 volume

of poetry, was followed by the incomplete The Fall of Hyperion, which is regarded by most critics as Keats's attempt to revise the earlier work. Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, like Endymion, focus on mythological themes; the story centers on the Titans' fall to the triumphant Olympians. Some critics have suggested that the history of the French Revolution played some role in Keats's construction of the poem. Other works considered to be among Keats's greatest are the odes published in the 1820 volume, including "Ode to Psyche," "Ode to a Nightingale," and "Ode on a Grecian Urn." The poems examine such themes as the relationship between art and life, and the nature of human suffering.

Critical Reception
One issue modern critics have studied is the discrepancy between the initial, often negative, reception of Keats and his poetry and the stellar literary reputation Keats enjoys today. Marjorie Levinson (1988) focuses her study on the barrier posed by Keats's social standing, pointing out ways in which his lower-middle-class status affected his work and influenced the negative reviews offered by his critics. Concentrating on politics rather than class status, Nicholas Roe (1992) similarly maintains that Keats's potential political subversiveness was the reason his poetry was deprecated by contemporary critics. Like Roe, Morris Dickstein (1983) examines Keats's politics, demonstrating that early on, Keats was associated not only with Leigh Hunt's poetry, but also with his liberal politics. Dickstein further argues that Keats makes his revulsion for the politics of the day and his desire for social and political progress explicit themes in both his poetry and his letters. Keats's letters are often studied by critics to gain insight into his poetical theories. Wolf Z. Hirst (1981) examines Keats's letters to his family and friends and discusses what the letters reveal about Keats's theories of "negative capability," the truth of Imagination, and "soul-making." Hirst interprets that by negative capability, Keats was referring to the ability of a poet to suppress his ego, to be "capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason… ." Keats's letters also reveal his belief that human suffering is a necessary experience in the processes of personality development and soulmaking, and that what the imagination apprehends as beauty must be truth. These theories are also reflected in Keats's poetry, and critic A. E. Eruvbetine (1984, 1987) examines the qualities of Keats's poetic imagination and of beauty as an aesthetic ideal, as displayed in his poems. Eruvbetine argues that to Keats, imagination served as the "true voice of feeling," that through the imaginative experience truth was revealed and new experiences could be envisioned. In the essay on beauty, Eruvbetine asserts that beauty represented to Keats a medium for accessing truth. While truth and beauty were apparently resolved into a single aesthetic ideal, the critic notes, beauty remained the focus of the ideal. In addition to exposing his poetical theories, Keats's letters also conveyed his mixed emotions about the love of his life, Fanny Brawne. Critics such as Margaret Homans (1990) examine Keats's remarks to and about Fanny Brawne in his letters as a means of understanding the way in which women are portrayed in his poetry. Homans likens the objectification and distancing of Brawne in the letters to Keats's objectification of women in his poetry, and to the poet's attempts to exclude female readers from gaining access to his poems. Similarly, in Karla Alwes's 1993

study of Keats's exploitation of the female "not only as an ideal to be achieved but as an obstacle to that achievement," Alwes suggests that Keats's difficult relationship with Brawne is related to the depiction of the female in "La Belle Dame sans Merci," in which the critic argues "the male is seen as most vulnerable." In addition to these areas of scholarship, modern critics still study Keats's poetry in more traditional ways, analyzing his imagery, style, and the structure of his poems. For example, Richard Harter Fogle (1949) explores the way in which the "concreteness" of Keats's imagery affects the metrical structure of his poems; François Matthey (1974) examines the development of the structural complexity of Keats's poetry; Jack Stillinger (1990) asserts that through narrative analysis Keats's poems can be better understood; and John A. Minahan (1992) investigates Keats's use of music in his poetry. Most modern students and scholars appear to be interested in Keats as an individual and as a poet, noting that to fully appreciate the poetry, one must fully appreciate the man. As Jerome McGann (1979) argues, Keats must be approached historically, rather than in the strictest literary sense, if analysis of his poetry "is to achieve either precision or comprehensiveness."