Top positive review
41 people found this helpful
Beauty is truth, truth beauty
on 7 December 2009
It's been a few years since I studied Keats at A-Level and I'm still no closer to understanding the significance of that line. And I'm pretty sure I never will. Poetry is not a Su Doku puzzle that requires decoding, it is the expression of self and ideas on life. All a reader needs to do is to let themselves be taken in by the words and to feel, if not understand, their meaning. For me John Keats is the master of his art and this book goes some way to presenting a definitive account of both his work and his tragic life.
At his own request Keats' gravestone reads: 'Here lies one whose name was writ in water.' He died before he could truly enjoy his success, and never got to see the way in which he affected the Romantic movement, or how you now are sat reading this review, considering purchasing his life's work (Or maybe just laughing at my spelling errors). I imagine the man himself would be very pleased indeed.
Keats' two published works are present in the text and feature some very long narrative poems. 'Endymion' is epic in size and principally concerned with Greek Mythology. 'Isabella,' 'Eve of St Anges' and 'Lamia' are also focused on narrative. They are all beautifully lyrical and 'Eve of St Agnes' in particular contains some wonderful sensory imagery:
Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees;
Unclasps her warmed jewels one by one;
Loosens her fragrant boddice; by degrees
Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees:
Never has a girl getting her kit off been descibed so beautifully.
But for me Keats is at his best when he writes of simple things. His fear of death, his passionate love for Fanny (Brawne) and his lifelong pursuit of fame. This collection contains so many wonderful posthumous poems too; my favourite being 'When I Have Fears that I May Cease to Be'. In this typically sad poem Keats confronts his own mortality, and dispels all notions of love and fame. It's truly beautiful stuff and should be read by anyone who has had to confront such emotional turmoil. His various Odes are also strong in this regard, marking a move from greek mythology to inner fears and personal trauma.
This collection also contains selected letters by Keats. Though sadly not many to his Fanny. Which is a real shame because the film that this collection is tied into, Bright Star, contained multiple examples of Keats' obsession and his tendancy to put pen to paper. Either way it's an interesting addition if you are wanting to know more about the man behind the poetry then it is useful insight.