John Keats’ Representation in the Romantics

John Keats was an impactful player in the Romantic literary movement. Though he may seem in the shadows of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelly, and Byron, he is noted with the group for a reason: he gave a perspective on life and nature in a unique sense that people who didn’t identify with the other Romantics could identify with.  Keats had a unique grip on Romanticism through use of  fairytale and fantastic elements.

One of Keats’ outstanding traits was his use of the fantastic and fairytale qualities. His ‘Sleep and Poetry’ from his first published work, Poems, (really creative title by the way, John), can be compared to some of Percy Shelly’s works. The dreamy lucidities similar, but Keats puts his own brand in it with more of the fairytale aspect especially when he mentions the “white-handed nymphs.” (The University of Adelaide January 20, 2013)

He is most known for his poems such as Ode on a Grecian Urn and Ode to a Nightingale, but a couple of his most fairytale-like works are The Eve of St. Agnes and Lamia. These poems were written at the same time the former two poems mentioned were. 1819 was a very creative, inspirational, and productive time for John Keats.  In Lamia, Keats gives us a shape-shifting, changeling serpent who is exposed by a human for who she really is. Obviously, this has fairytale elements we can see from our main character, the serpent, who can change forms, magically, but is exposed by a symbol of logic, reason, and truth. In The Eve of St. Agnes, a superstitious girl, Madeline, believes that her lover will meet her on a special, se aside night. This work is a fairytale-like reference to fate and destiny. More or less, her lover meets her that night even though it’s by “rigged” means. For the Romantics, Wordsworth and Shelly focus much on nature and finding “the sublime,” and Keats touches on that in Ode to a Nightingale, but he also talks about the Hippocrene, which is a fountain allegedly formed by Pegasus hooves and gave power to poets when they drank from it. (Merriam-Webster) Also from that poem is a line that shows a very magical action/idea: “And with thee fade away into the forest dim” (Keats 2013) Keats has a strong connection with the unknown, magical realm. That, or he has a deep desire to be connected to it.

All in all, Keats has not only defined himself as a Romantic with all of the other big names obsessed with nature and a little bit of philosophy, but he has shown how he is a unique and individualistic poet in the group of writers.

Keats, John. Poetry Foundation, “Poetry Foundation.” Last modified 2013. Accessed November 8, 2013. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173744.

Merriam-Webster, . Encyclopædia Britannica, “Merriam-Webster.” Last modified 2013. Accessed November 8, 2013. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hippocrene.

The University of Adelaide, . The University of Adelaide, “Poems, 1817, by John Keats.” Last modified January 20, 2013. Accessed November 8, 2013. http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/k/keats/john/poems1817/part4.html.

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