John Keats (1795-1821)


Nymans Garden-Ode to a Grecian Urn. A daffodil...
Nymans Garden-Ode to a Grecian Urn. A daffodil crowded English garden, by Francois Thomas

John Keats (1795-1821) was a London-born English poet who, after discovering the Romantic poets through Leigh Hunt, abandoned a medical career to devote himself to verse.

Hunt published Keat’s first sonnets in the Examiner in 1816.

Keat’s early work was seen, even by himself in due course, as somewhat “mawkish and slipshod.” But his La Belle Dame Sans Merci and various Odes, such as Ode to a Grecian Urn, gave a new look to the Shakespearean and Petrarchian sonnet.

Amor and Psyche, late 18th century marble

To Autumn is generally taken as a masterpiece of English lyric poetry. Meanwhile, students of mythology enjoy Keats’ extensive reworking of classical themes in works like Hyperion, Apollo, Ode to Psyche and the youthful Endymion, in which he pursues the idea of pure beauty.

Declining an invitation to spend the winter of 1820 in Italy with the Shelleys, Keats nonetheless borrowed enough money to travel to Italy with a young painter the following September. He died of tuberculosis just a few months later in February at Rome.

He was 25 years old.

Keats’ Letters were published in 1848 and 1878.

Related » Lord Byron

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