Sunday, 7 December 2008

John Keats,Romantic Poet from Hampstead

John Keats ( 31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821) was one of the principal poets of the English Romantic movement. During his short life, his work received constant critical attacks from periodicals of the day, but his posthumous influence on poets such as Alfred Tennyson has been immense. Elaborate word choice and sensual crimeajewel imagery characterize Keats's poetry, including a series of odes that were his masterpieces and which remain among the most popular poems in English literature. Keats's letters, which expound on his aesthetic theory of "negative capabiliity", are among the most celebrated by any writer.
John Keats was born in 1795 at 85 Moorgate in London, where his father, Thomas Keats, was an hostler. The pub is now called 'Keats at the Globe', only a few yards from Moorgate station. Keats was baptised at St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate and lived happily for the first seven years of his life. The beginnings of his troubles occurred in 1804, when his father died of a fractured skull after falling from his horse. A year later, in 1805, Keats' grandfather died. His mother, Frances Jennings Keats, remarried soon afterwards, but quickly left the new husband and moved herself and her four children (a son had died in infancy) to live with Keats's grandmother, Alice Jennings. There, Keats attended a school that first instilled a love of literature in him. In 1810, however, his mother died of tuberculosis, leaving him and his siblings in the custody of their grandmother.
Keats's grandmother appointed two guardians to take care of her new "charges", and these guardians removed Keats from his old school to become a surgeon's apprentice at Thomas Hammond's apothecary shop in Edmonton (now part of the London Borough of Enfield). This continued until 1814, when, after a fight with his master, he left his apprenticeship and became a student at Guy's Hospital (now part of King's College London). During that year, he devoted more and more of his time to the study of literature. Keats traveled to the Isle of Wight in the spring of 1819, where he spent a week. Later that year he stayed in Winchester. It was here that Keats wrote Isabella, St. Agnes' Eve and Lamia. Parts of Hyperion and the five-act poetic tragedy Otho The Great were also written in Winchester.
Following the death of his grandmother, he soon found his brother, Tom Keats, entrusted to his care. Tom was suffering, as his mother had, from tuberculosis. Finishing his epic poem "Endymion", Keats left to work in Scotland and Ireland with his friend Charles Armitage Brown. However, he too began to show signs of tuberculosis infection on that trip, and returned prematurely. When he did, he found that Tom's condition had deteriorated, and that Endymion had, as had Poems before it, been the target of much abuse from the critics. On 1 December 1818, Tom Keats died of his disease, and John Keats moved again, to live in Brown's house in Hampstead, next to Hampstead Heath. There he lived next door to Fanny Brawne, who had been staying there with her mother. He then quickly fell in love with Fanny. However, it was overall an unhappy affair for the poet; Keats's ardour for her seemed to bring him more vexation than comfort. The later (posthumous) publication of their correspondence was to scandalise Victorian society. In the diary of Fanny Brawne was found only one sentence regarding the separation: "Mr. Keats has left Hampstead." Fanny's letters to Keats were, as the poet had requested, destroyed upon his death. However, in 1937, a collection of 31 letters, written by Fanny Brawne to Keats's sister, Frances, were published by Oxford University Press. While these letters revealed the depth of Brawne's feelings toward Keats and in many ways attempted to redeem her rather promiscuous reputation, it is arguable whether or not they succeeded.
This relationship was cut short when, by 1820, Keats began showing serious signs of tuberculosis, the disease that had plagued his family. On the suggestion of his doctors, he left the cold airs of London behind and moved to Italy with his friend Joseph Severn. Keats moved into a house, which is now a museum that is dedicated to his life and work, The Keats-Shelley House, on the Spainish steps, in Rome, where despite attentive care from Severn and Dr. John Clark, the poet's health rapidly deteriorated. He died in 1821 and was buried in the Protestant Cemetery,Rome. His last request was to be buried under a tombstone reading, "Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water." His name was not to appear on the stone. Despite these requests, however, Severn and Brown also added the epitaph: "This Grave contains all that was mortal, of a YOUNG ENGLISH POET, who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his heart, at the Malicious Power of his enemies, desired these words to be Engraven on his Tomb Stone" along with the image of a lyre with broken strings.
Shelley blamed his death on an article published shortly before in the Quaterly Review, with a scathing attack on Keats's Endymion. The offending article was long believed to have been written by William Gifford, though later shown to be the work of John Wilson Croker. Keats's death inspired Shelley to write the poem Adonais.';Byron later composed a short poem on this theme using the phrase "snuffed out by an article." However Byron, far less admiring of Keats's poetry than Shelley and generally more cynical in nature, was here probably just as much poking fun at Shelley's interpretation as he was having a dig at his old fencing partners the critics. (see below, Byron's other less than serious poem on the same subject).
The largest collection of Keats's letters, manuscripts, and other papers is in the Houghton library at Harvard University. Other collections of such material can be found at the British Library;Keats House, Hampstead; The Keats-Shelley House, Rome; and the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York.

Keats famous poem-Ode to a Nightingale

MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains

My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains

One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:

'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,

But being too happy in thine happiness,

That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees,

In some melodious plot

Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,

Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O for a draught of vintage! that hath been

Cool'd a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,

Tasting of Flora and the country-green,

Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!

O for a beaker full of the warm South!

Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,

With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,

And purple-stainèd mouth;

That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,

And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget

What thou among the leaves hast never known,

The weariness, the fever, and the fret

Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;

Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,

Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;

Where but to think is to be full of sorrow

And leaden-eyed despairs;

Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,

Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

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 perplexes and retards:

Already with thee! tender is the night,

And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,

Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays

But here there is no light,

Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown

Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,

Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,

But, in embalmèd darkness, guess each sweet

Wherewith the seasonable month endows

The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;

White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;

Fast-fading violets cover'd up in leaves;

And mid-May's eldest child,

The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,

The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time

I have been half in love with easeful Death,

Call'd him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,

To take into the air my quiet breath;

Now more than ever seems it rich to die,

To cease upon the midnight with no pain,

While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad

In such an ecstasy!

Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—

To thy high requiem become a sod.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!

No hungry generations tread thee down;

The voice I hear this passing night was heard

In ancient days by emperor and clown:

Perhaps the self-same song that found a path

Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,

She stood in tears amid the alien corn;

The same that ofttimes hath

Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam

Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell

To toll me back from thee to my sole self!

Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well

As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.

Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades

Past the near meadows, over the still stream,

Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep

In the next valley-glades:

Was it a vision, or a waking dream?

Fled is that music:—do I wake or sleep?

Keats is also a distant relative of the Metaphysical poet, John Donne.

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