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The Complete Poems of John Keats - A Review by Barry Van-Asten,
This review is from: The Complete Poems of John Keats (Wordsworth Poetry Library) (Paperback)
Of all the English Romantic poets, Keats is the most emblematic of the notion of the beautiful, doomed romantic youth, succumbing to the tragedy and fate of his own death, something which appealed to the Victorians and the Pre-Raphaelites. John Keats (1795-1821) was an apprentice to an apothecary-surgeon and became a student at Guy's Hospital before abandoning medicine in favour of writing poetry. His first volume of poems was published in 1817 and was ridiculed as `Cockney School' of poetry. He visited the Lakes, Scotland and Northern Ireland and moved to London's Hampstead where he met and fell in love with Fanny Brawne. After financial difficulties he became ill in the winter of 1819 with tuberculosis and he died in Rome in February 1821.
Keats was one of the principle figures in the Romantic Movement and he was influenced by Wordsworth and Hazlitt and many critics were quite hostile to his poetic works. The year 1818 proved to be his year of maturity, writing such poems as `Endymion' (dedicated to Chatterton), `Isabella, or the Pot of Basil', `Hyperion', `The Eve of St Agnes', `The Eve of St Mark', `Ode to Psyche', `La Belle Dame sans Merci', `Ode to a Nightingale', `Ode on a Grecian Urn', `Ode on Melancholy', and `To Autumn'. His second volume of verse appeared in 1820 and his contemporaries either loved or loathed his work; Byron, that pompous man of action disliked Keats and despised his effeminacy which is strange coming from a man who delighted in the affections of both sexes! Yet Keats adored Byron's works. But Shelley, the profound visionary who died the year after Keats favoured the younger poet's intellectual and spiritual passion for beauty; he possibly saw a kindred spirit but where Shelley uses philosophy to shape his poems, Keats draws upon the sexual and physical notions of beauty, writing with real feeling and an admiration for beauty in all its transient forms. Byron, the Romantic poseur saw Keats as a passive poet; a `young pretender', with a liking for nostalgia, but I find Keats with his pure heart and imagination relates much better to the modern reader than Byron or Shelley for that matter, and the collected works are a proof of his lasting lyrical beauty! In the words of Shelley: `I weep for Adonais - he is dead!'