John Keats poems: A01 knowledge of texts

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  • Created on: 11-05-17 15:44

Poem 1: O Solitude, if I must with thee dwell


* First Octet Keats expresses that if he were to be alone, he would like to be alone in nature then the ugly city. 

* Sestet says whilst he'd like to be alone in nature, would like to be with a kindred spirit. 


 Written October 1815, shortly after joining Guy's hospital, had to move from Edmonton to Southwark, a dirty area filled with poverty and crime. (Poem expresses longing to escape). 

*Keats was a sensitive man, living in a rough area (longing for escape understandable.) 

*Leigh Hunt published poem in 'The examiner' 


Petrarchan sonnet

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Poem 2: On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer


* Describes how he has been an exploratory reader for many years. But reading George Chapman’s translation of Homer been transformative. 

 Expresses his excitement in terms of an astronomer discovering a new planet/the Spanish explorer and coloniser Cortez, who caught sight of the Pacific Ocean from the heights of Darien.


 1816, Cowden Clarke invited Keats to rooms to read Chapman's homer (leigh hunt been passing text around) read till 6 am, they Keats went home and immediately composed a sonnet. Clarke received poem at 10 am that morning. 


*Petrarchan sonnet, abba abba cde cde.

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Poem 3: On the sea


* Sea signifies timelessness and eternity. Discusses the smoothing effect of the sea on a depressed urban traveler/untamed rough side of the sea. 

Hecate, an ancient Greco-Roman goddess (of magic) conveys wild unruly nature of the sea. 

Talks about sea having an effect on the senses. 

Suggests the wretched urban soul should rejuvenate at the sea. 


1817, written on a trip to Isle of Wight with his brother. 

*Read King Lear (Shakespeare) and was haunted by 'do you not hear the sea?'

*On a break from Guy's, this was his poetry 'fix'


*Petrarchan Sonnet

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Poem 4: In drear-nighted December


*Keats' poem examines the idea that the worst part of suffering is often to remember a time when we were happy. 

*Nature can't remember summer in the winter, can't compare pain, better or worse? leaves it ambiguous. 


1817, a concept from Francesca da Rimini in Dante's Inferno, (No greater torment than to remember happy times in misery). 


*Lyrical poem (exploring form now). 

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Poem 5: On Sitting Down To Read King Lear Once Aga


* About Keats struggle with life, unidentified romance, life/death and immorality. 

*Tells his romance to shut up so he can focus on more important things in life right now: death. Tells romance goodbye. 

'Damnation and clay' talking about damnation and death, call own death 'bittersweet' as he mortal and doomed to die, 'sweet' because of immorality.

*Says he will die in eternal Albion ( the old fashioned name for England.) and let him not wander forever in purgatory like kingLear, but rise like a phoenix because of his desire. 


*1818, 1815 entered Guy's, surrounded by death. 

*Been reading Shakespeare after 1816 when he declared he wanted to be a poet. 


*14 lines, mix of Shakespearean and Petrachen form. Iambic Petametre about from last like= Iambic Hexametre. Last line a rhyming couplet. Line called Alexandrian line. 

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Poem 6: When I have fears that I may be cease to b


*Expresses the fear he may die before he fulfills his work. He has so much to write and little time.

*He is very sensitive to beauty, and the feeling of not being able to 'pen' his ideas makes him feel empty and desolate. 


*1818, Tom died of TB in December (written in January). 


First fully Shakespearean sonnet. 2/5 Keats completed poems sonnets including 36 he wrote at the beginning of that year. 

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Poem 7: Isabella: or The Pot of Basil


* Set in Florence Isabella falls in love with Lorenzo. Her proud noble brother's murder Lorenzo in the forest, Lorenzo appears to Isabella in a vision and tells her where he is. She digs up his body, cuts off his head, and plants in a pot of basil, which flourishes with the nourishment of her tears. She wastes away whilst her brothers grow suspicions and steal the pot, finding his head and running away. Isabelle goes mad and dies.


1818, medieval romance. 

*Based on tale in Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron. 

 Attended a lecture by William Hazlitt, 3rd Feb 1818, commented that Giovanni Boccacci's Decameron would sell well. Influence. 


*Written in Ottava Rima. 8 lines Iambic Pentametre with rhyme. ABABABCC. 

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Poem 8: Hyperion, a fragment (Summary)


(Book 1) Saturn, leader of Titans grieves after defeat by Olympians. Thea, Hyperion's wife, finds him and suggests he should visit his fellow Titans to comfort them. Saturn agrees. Some of the Titans have been captured, apart from Hyperion, who still has not been defeated, he fears bad omens, but, is determined to restore Saturn and fight. Hyperion, impatient to start the day but can't is convinced by Coleus to see other Titans.  

(Book 2) Titans are melancholy. Thea and Saturn arrive. Saturn begins to feel human emotion, losing divinity. Gives empowering speech. Oceanus says losing is the order of the world. Clymene agrees to say Olympians are superior. Enceladus opposes passiveness and submission. He argues they should fight. Hyperion arrives. He fills they chasm with light, but there is sadness all around. Saturn sits with the mother of all Gods, who sits with no emotion on her face.

*(Book 3) Keats sings about Apollo (thinking of Tom's premature death, he feels he should turn rather than wallow in his death). Appollo wanders and cries. A goddess appears to him, she gave him his lute. She asks why he is crying, she has been watching him and is loyal. He says it is because he is ignorant, he asks her to tell him everything. Appollo looks into her face and realizes that knowledge makes him a god. He spasms and 'dies' into a god, the experience of pain makes him wiser and happier. The goddess symbolizes all human experience and now he knows it. (Goddess also symbolizes present of mankind and future, a deification of Apollo symbolizes how Keats feels like now he is a real poet and he has realized that a keen/sensitive awareness of human experience is essential to write true poetry.) 

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Poem 8: Hyperion, a fragment (Commentary and Form)


*1819, lived near Bedlam, where Cibber's guardians of Bedlam were at the doors. One statue represented Melancholy and the other raving madness. 

*1817 Elgin Marbles at the British museum, Keats would have seen them. 

*The Titans in Greek mythology ruled before Olympians on mount Othry's. Gaea (goddess of the earth) and Uranus (sky/heavens) AKA guy who speaks to Hyperion. Birthed original 12 Titans. Hyperion is the god of light. 

*Apollo was the Olympian god of light/sun. 

*1815 Napolean lost at Waterloo, the revolutionary monarch turned imperialistic, sense of disappointment among liberals. 

*Ideas of 'veil of soul making' Socrates idea that being a poet entails necessary pain, to reach beauty, truth, and wisdom explored. 


*Classical high style Milton's Paradise lost. Epic narrative. 

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Poem 9: The Eve of St Agnes (Summary)


*Beadsman (man paid to pray for a family) in the Chapel about to do penance. Meanwhile, there is a ruckus party in the castle, but the young virgin Madaline would rather be in bed. Since it is the Eve of St Agnus she believes if she completes a ritual she'll dream of her future husband. 

*Porphyro, a young man in love with Madaline, rides across the moors to catch a glimpse of his beloved. He warily enters the castle, where the nurse Angela warns him to leave as his family is feuding with Madeline's family. 

*Nurse reluctantly agrees to hide Porphyro in Madeline's room so he can see her. Madaline enters her room, undresses and gets in bed-not looking behind her (part of the ritual).

*Porphyro brings out delicacies for Madaline and tries to wake her. She does not. He plays his lute until she wakes. She is disappointed that this real man is not the same as the man she dreamt, not as amazing. But she does not want to be left alone, she begs him to take her with him.

*The couple escape. The father and all the guests have bad dreams that night. The maid and beadsman die. 

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Poem 9: The Eve of St Agnes (Commentary and form)


*1819, St Agnus martyred in the fourth century, patron saint of virgins. On the Eve of St Agnus (Jan 21) legend has if a virgin completes a ritual she will dream of her future hubby. 

*Keats mixes legend with story of Romeo and Juliet/and some traditional French romances. 

*Trip to Scotland may have inspired the gothic. Also just met Fanny Brawne (romantic aspect)

Very visual decadent descriptio inspired lots of Pre-Raphaelite paintings. 


*42 Spencerian stanzas. 

*9 line form, last line Hexametre (Alexandrine line) Ab abbc bcc, rhyme gives of sensuality. 

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poem 10: La Belle dame sans merci


*Speaker asks why knight looks so 'haggard' and lost. Knight says he met a beautiful woman in the meadows and wooed her. She returns this affection, giving him sweet things and taking him back to her fairy cave, she then lulls him to sleep. The Knight dreams about kings and princes she has seduced, warning him (they all hella dead). The knight then wakes up on the hillside explaining that he can't leave (which is why he looks terrible). 


*1819, the title of the poem taken from a medieval french poem by Alain Chartier it means 'The lovely lady without pity'.

*Women is like Morgan le fay in Arthurian romances. She is a mysterious woman (normally magic) who plots against King Arthur. (Femme Fatale).

*The Knight is suffering from the expected symptoms of excess 'Melancholy' (an illness in medieval times) one of the four humors of medieval medicine. 


*The ballad form, 12 quatrains, ABCB, Iambic tetrameter, but on fourth line only 3 stressed syllables. 

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Poem 11: To Sleep


*The poet apostrophizes a personified sleep, saying it provides forgetfulness to a troubled soul. Asks for sleep to end his wakefulness, otherwise, he will be troubled by his thoughts. 



*Experimentation with the sonnet form. 


*Basically a Shakespearean sonnet, without the rhyming couplet that Keats thought was clumsy. 

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Poem 12: Ode to Psyche


*Keats addresses goddess psyche, apologizing for singing her own secrets to her and urging her to listen to him. He tells her whilst walking he encounter her and Eros (god of love) in an embrace. He tells her she is the fairest but most unusual of goddesses, as she has no alter etc. like the other gods.  

*He says this is because she missed the era of 'antique vows' and he will compensate, as she is especially needed in this day and age. He says he will worship her and in his imagination build her a temple, He promises in her new home (his mind) the window will be left open so Ero's can see her. 


*1819 (living year) Psyche represents the human soul made immortal through love (depicted as a butterfly) myth she was the daughter of a king so pretty she made men forget the face of Venus (goddess of love) although she is to be married to Eros (Venus's son) she loses him and is tormented by Venus. She completes Venus's tasks and is reunited with Ero's, forgiven by Venus and made a god by Zeus. 


*This poem is an Ode, the most intense type of Lyrical poem. 

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Poem 13: Ode to a Grecian Urn


*The speaker admires an imaginary greek Urn and comments on the scenes depicted on it. he wonders what stories inspired the men, girls, and gods running around on the Urn, as well as who they are. He sees a piper and two lovers embracing. He delights in the fact he can't hear the tune, as imagined melodies are sweeter, and he consoles the lovers who will never consummate their love, but their love will never fade.

*He sees a priest leading a heifer to be sacrificed followed by a procession. He wonders what town would be emptied for all of time.

These sad thoughts bring the speaker to the present, he remembers that when his generation dies this urn will still be communicating it's eternal message, 'beauty is truth, truth beauty'. 


*1819 (May probs) Ekphrastic poem ( a poem about works of art). The sacrifice at the end suggests influenced by Elgin marbles. Sketched Urn from volumes of engravings of friend Benjamin Haydon. Tom had recently died, he was trying. Juxtaposition between tranquility of Urn (for ashes) and fragility of human existence. 


*Ode, Iambic pentameter. Varying Rhyme scheme. 

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Poem 14: Ode to a Nightingale


*Speaker begins saying he feels like he has drunk something poisonous that has drugged his senses. He says listening to Nightingale has intoxicated him with the bird's happiness. Speaker wishes for oblivion, he wants the fly away on the Nightingale's wings. He says he could die here and now, but then wouldn't be able to hear it's song anymore. He says the song is not governed by human rules of art (artists trying to outdo each generation). He says the song is eternal and brought back to his senses, he is unsure if he had a vision or a waking dream. 


*Spring 1819, Charles Brown said there was a Nightingale nest in a tree outside his house (Plumtree Wentworth place), where on morning Keats sat and wrote the poem. 

*He brother had died a few months before of TB and now so was he. 

*Nightingale associated with summer/romance, a story about Philomel who was ***** by brother in law (tongue cut out to stop her from speaking) the gods turned her into a nightingale, to compensate for her lost voice.  


*Horatian Ode (consistent stanza length and meter). Each stanza has 10 lines, 9 Iambic pentameter, 10th line Iambic trimeter (6 syllables). ABABCDECDE. 

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Poem 15: Ode to Melancholy


*Melancholy (like depression) Poem about how to deal with it. The first stanza is what NOT to do, no to suicide, no to blocking out the pain, does not deal with pain. The sufferer should be alert to pain, they should immerse themselves in beauty. All things are doomed to die and pleasure and pain are closely linked. The 'shrine' of Melancholy is inside the temple of delight, only those with imagination can see that Melancholy is in the center of joy. Those who can see with be 'hung' like a trophy in the Melancholy temple. 


*1819, Charles Brown had given Keats a book, Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy (1621). Keats dismissed the traditional cures in the first 150 pages. 


*Ode grew out of experimentation with the sonnet form. 

*Each Stanza in the sonnet has 10 lines (Shakespearean quatrain, abab, Petrachen sestet cdecde) 

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Poem 16: Ode on Indolence


*Speaker describes a vision he had one morning. Three figures wearing Grecian clothes walk by him (look like figures on an urn). The speaker asks the figures how they appeared unnoticed, he thinks they plot to take his 'idle days'. He says he has been enjoying the summers day numbly, and he asked why they have not left so he can enjoy 'nothingness'. The figures pass by again, he feels the urge to follow them (they are love, ambition, and poesy- poetry). The figures disappear and he knows it's silly to follow them, love is fleeting, ambition more so and poesy can't compete with idleness. The figures return and the speak is distressed, he describes his good morning, and bids them be gone. He says farewell saying they have not roused his passions, he prefers idleness. 


*1819, His brother George wrote to him saying he needed to assess his financial situation, poetry was not enough (wanted to marry Fanny) this poem addresses his struggles with love, fame, poetry and Indolence. 


*Ode Iambic pentameter 

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Poem 17: Bright star! Would I were steadfast as th


*He addresses the North star, which appears unchanging in the night sky. He says he wishes he was a steadfast as the star but doesn't want to be in 'lone splendor' looking down at the oceans etc...Instead he wants to be steadfast in the sense of being close to his beloved (resting on her breast) never wants to be away from her.  


*1819, most agree about Fanny Brawne, in a letter Keats called her 'fair star'. Keats was buried with her unopened letters.


*Italian sonnet

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Poem 18: To Autumn


*A richly pictorial description of the season when summer ends and winter is approaching. The first stanza celebrates ripeness, Autumn is personified as a guiding spirit, behind abundance and creativity, she conspires with the sun to produce a rich range of crops. Stanza 2 moves towards the harvest, the season is personified as various agricultural work. The fruits of Autumn must serve human beings throughout the year. The final stanza has a sense of loss, winter approaches, but Keats gives us hope through the song of the robin. 


*1819, in a letter to his friend Reynolds, he describes how he prefers Autumn to the 'chilly green' of spring, because of it's warmth, an observation on his morning walk. 


*Ode, shorter than others, variations of Iambic Pentameter. 

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