The Honesty of Keats

Discussion on the works of John Keats.

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The Honesty of Keats

Postby Claire » Sat Mar 22, 2003 4:03 pm

Was Keats an honest poet all the time?
Did he ever 'Blag' any of his poetry, say when you create a beautiful first line and anything else would be inferior...or was he a true poet all the time.... :D this is my first post here!
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Re: honesty of keats

Postby Despondence » Sun Mar 23, 2003 11:37 am

I'm not entirely sure what you mean-I think, if by "honest" you mean that every line or stanza is crafted with equal care and passion, then probably yes. He is of course limited by rhymes as any other poet, and as any of them will happily admit, sometimes a beautiful rhyme is chosen over an awkward one even though it might twist the poem in a slightly different direction than was intended. But you might be referring to something different altogether.

One thing that occurred to me on thinking about this was how virtuosly honest and true he was towards himself. Rarely have I come across someone with such self-knowledge as Keats. Much aware of his own shortcomings and limitations, he repeatedly complained about the immature and imperfect nature of his early poems (well, I guess they all were) like Endymion and the Pot of Basil. Not that they were not wonderful poems, but in them he did not reach the level of perfection and beauty that, according to his own axioms, every poem should aspire towards ("Its touches of beauty should never be half-way..."). His lack of worldly and romantic experience become often the target for his self-criticism, so by and by he concedes that he was often not satisfied with the outcome of many poems in that they failed to live up to his axoims. Maybe, in this sense, one could say that his poems were not successfully "honest" all the time, but this must in that case be ascribed to some limitation of the quill to convey his thoughts rather than the thoughts themselves.

Well, I probably answered a whole different question than you put forth, but it is in any case an interesting quiestion.

Thank you.....

Postby Claire » Sun Mar 23, 2003 12:36 pm

You answered beautifully!
I have read alot about Keats and what the 'Proffesional critics' think. It is nice to know what to see how other people view him.
I am knew to his poetry ect but completely in love with it!
I love comparing other poets since it was part of my literature course, I had to read Tennyson and found that alot of his poetry was forced and felt dishonest and often immature, whereas with Keats it flows and is heart felt. I recently bought 'The complete poems (John Barnard)' and I can't put in down. (I now have to buy a bigger bag to carry it in!)
I would love to hear other peoples views on Keats and his honesty (And by honesty I mean 'Heartfelt' and not as forced as other poets.) :D
La Belle Dame Sans Merci.
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Keats' honesty

Postby Malcolm » Tue Mar 25, 2003 11:19 am

Good question - you've made me think about this. On reflection, I think 'honesty' is probably one of Keats' defining features. Probably this is not surprising, as the whole Romantic movement was focused on expressing the truest, most natural and most immediate sentiments and ideas. I think Keats' observation that "whatever the imagination siezes as beauty must be truth" sums up one of the central themes of the whole moevement. That is, the human mind reacts instinctively to beauty, whether in the form of nature, art, or instincively beautiful intellectual ideas, such as freedom, equality etc.

In a sense, therefore, Keats' poetry would not work at all unless it reflected this desire to express a truly natural, instinctive/ 'honest' response to nature, politics, art etc. On the other hand, I agree that above probably all other poets that I know, Keats is the one who most genuinely and effectively achieves this. Even his weaker poems, like Endymion, exude the poet's intense enthusiasm for and attachment to his themes. Even when he is not expressing himself most effectively you sense that h is genuinely engaged with the effort!

However I would have to acknowledge that preoccupation with true 'honesty' in poetry was probably more the invention of Wordsworth than Keats (obviously Wordsworth was one of Keat's principal inspirations). In the Lyrical Ballads, one of Wordsworth's main concerns is to break away from the sometimes artificial intellectual games and carefully crafted witticisms of his predecessors. To Wordsworth, the greatest poetry would always be inspired by true feeling and honesty. Keats inherited this philosophy from Wordsworth, but I would have to admit, he was probably more true to it than Wordsworth himself.
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Postby substatique » Tue Apr 01, 2003 1:50 am

I agree with Malcolm. Keats was the most perfect romantic poet in that his poems were not based around philosophy or morals, but merely sensory experience, even if it was imagined experience. The details he adds are merely scenery, they are not metaphors for a political or ethical position. Thus, Keats' poems can be interpreted philosophically...or not. They are wonderful on the face of them, in addition to containing secret deeper messages that Keats may or may not have intended.

I would call this honest, because Keats wrote what went on in his own head rather than interpreting other people's thougths. It seems he wasn't trying to impress anyone, though he most certainly was. Even Wordsworth was caught up in how his poems were going to change the literary world, rather than just the individual poems themselves.

This post hasn't perfectly summed up my opinion on the subject, but only a perfect poet could do that perfectly.

Postby Claire » Sat Apr 12, 2003 11:09 am

"because Keats wrote what went on in his own head rather than interpreting other people's thougths. "

I thought his earlier poems were an interpretation of other peoples thoughts. (Especially Imitation of Spenser!)
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Postby Lord Byron » Tue Aug 12, 2003 2:03 am

Keats did not write every line with equal passion. He told his brother George that 'Ode on Indolence' was the first thing he ever wrote carefully - everything previous (including Endymion and Eve of St. Agnes) were written hurriedly.
Lord Byron

Postby Unknown » Wed Sep 03, 2003 1:25 pm

well sometimes when written buridley something is more pure as one does not have time to search for a prettier way of phrasing something, or to think about how other peple would considerthe lin, it simply is written in sucha fashion that does not leave time for daliances on the impetus of writing
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