Which is your favourite and why?!.....

Discussion on the works of John Keats.

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Which is your favourite and why?!.....

Postby Hope » Fri Dec 20, 2002 10:39 pm

Just wondering which poems are everyone's favourites?

Mine is "To Hope" (hence the username!) which I really feel conjures up some of the most beautiful imagery I've ever seen in a poem. It is so emotive - I have in on my wall, and whilst being realistic, it is also incredibly positive - Keats' writing was so powerful as he earnestly felt many of the sentiments he wrote about, having had such a hard life himself.

"When I have fears that I may cease to be" is also wonderful, as are the Odes

Also, can anyone give me their reading of Hyperion?!
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Re: Finest poem?

Postby ralf » Tue Dec 31, 2002 3:41 pm

As an absolute beginner to Keats - and to English verse in general - I too find "When I have fears..." to be one of the finest poems ever written. Its simplicity really augments its power and beauty.

Alas, I have not yet had the stamina to read the full length of "Endymion" (my English, not being my native language, is sadly wanting still) - but the first verse, so beautiful, is already etched into my mind:

"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us and a sleep,
full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing."

My wildcard, if such epithet it merits, would be the poem (or is it a sonnet?) "Sleep and poetry," whose stunning keenness and ease of flowing poesy makes me want to read it over and over. I would urge anyone not already familiar with it to try it on for size - it will surely not disappoint.


When I have fears

Postby Thilo » Sun Jan 05, 2003 9:42 pm

Hy hope,

"When I have fears" was the first poem by Keats which I have read. I think, I was attracted by his seriousness and his eagerness to express himself, which seems a real physical necessity.

Take the Ode to Fanny as a second example:
"PHYSICIAN Nature! Let my spririt blood!
O ease my heart of verse and let me rest;
Throw me upon thy Tripod, till the flood
Of stifling numbers ebbs from my full breast."

This idea is probably romantic, but I admire the consequence with which some artists, like Keats, realise their calling.

On of my favourite German poets, Rainer Maria Rilke, once wrote in a letter to a young would-be poet who had seeked his advice on whether to become a poet: If you are at all capable of doing any other profession than poetry, then you must take that profession. You can only become an artist if you have no alternative (you find the letter in English here: http://www.sfgoth.com/~immanis/rilke/letter1.html.

The first thing that attracted me to Keats' poems was this existential need to be a poet, to express himself. What touched me more was the fact that in contrast to Rilke, who was often spoiled by rich aristocrats who let him stay in their castles to write his poems in silence, and who never cared much even for his family and his own daughter, Keats was a loving son and brother and took his time to care for his loved ones, ruining his own health. Even though he was the prototype of the suffering genius, you cannot reduce him to this cliché.

Later, I discovered the less evident aspects of Keats' poems, but my perspective on him will always be influenced by this first impression.

Best wishes from Munich, Germany,
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favourite poems

Postby Lazylolly » Tue Jan 21, 2003 5:39 am


My favourite poem has to be 'when i have fears' i LOVE this poem!! It is so tragic and yet so beautiful at the same time.

The reason i love keats is because he was passionate about the things that i am passionate about. He sees the world for its beauty and he embraces it. He was a genius. The greatest English writer that we have ever had (yes i think that he is even greater than Shakespeare-no contest!!)

What about everyone else??

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Postby ast3risk » Thu Feb 13, 2003 9:39 am

tiz indeed a tough one for me to decide which poem is the most favourite poem of his, to me. I right alot of poetry, and so upon readign keta i immediately feel in love with him and his work. All of his poetry, to me, rings true to me - like i feel i know exactly what his on about/feeling/wanting to express. I have not read all of his poems, but my favourite is an untitled on written on an adjacent page to shakespears'. "Ode to a nighting gale", however, would deffinately do for the moment {until i can find that poem and put it up here}. Im reading a book on the life and poetics of keats... and i want every work of his i can find. here i am...
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Postby Malcolm » Tue Mar 25, 2003 1:37 pm

Ode on a Grecian Urn. I find this poem really captivating. I think it’s the most effective expression of a lot of Keats’ major themes: how joy and sadness are so closely interwoven, the immortality of great art blended with the fear of death, how the imagination instinctively seizes on beautiful objects and concepts... they’re all represented perfectly here. I also think this is one of Keats most ‘musical’ poems – you can appreciate the way it sounds even if you don’t understand a single word.

How come the consensus for When I Have Fears? Is this a set text or something?
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"When I have fears..."

Postby Despondence » Wed Mar 26, 2003 2:46 pm

"Consensus" is maybe a bit too strong. I can only speak for myself, of course, but while it surely is one of his most widely appreciated short pieces it is not unduly so, in my humble opinion.

There are many aspects to it, but perhaps above everything else, it is so Keats! Somehow, all his hopes and fears distilled into a single sonnet of such a beauty to at once numb the senses and dazzle the mind and pierce the heart. It is like all of his principles and beliefs, his integrity and virtuousness, his heart-felt sorrow and the longing for passion honest and pure - they all come out in this poem. I think "When I have fears" is popular because it speaks the language of many hearts and minds, and it gives a voice to our own hopes and fears. We are not scribes all of us, but we can easily identify with the anguish and the constant strife, the fear - not of leaving this world, but leaving it prematurely.

Keats was forced to continuously challenge despondence and despair, and to overcome by accomplishment. This poem seems to me as a supreme example of that sort of accomplishment; in Keats' own words, poetry "should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts". To me, "When I have fears" does so admirably.

Another aspect is its simplicity, wherein lies much of its beauty. It is a greater art by far to express the essence of an idea, image or feeling in a few lines (for instance, a haiku) than to write an essay upon it - let alone doing it in the style of poetry. This sonnet is stylewise also nothing short of astonishing: a beautiful rhyming pattern, a clear and poignant volta between the octet and the sestet, a striking first two lines and the heart-felt concluding couplet, etc.

Personally I also think the fact that it is not centered on love, that love in itself is not the theme or imagery of the poem but rather its cause, or perhaps even nemesis, increases its appeal greatly. I mean, are we not saturated with love poems? If not yet, then within a matter of a few Byron's. After all is said and done, I imagine Keats speculating, love can not be relied on or counted on to be there for you; only our hopes and fears can. But how to write about this?`I mean, I can't quite put the words to what I'm trying to say here, but Keats could.

So in conclusion, if you like "When I have fears" but don't know why, it's perhaps one or some or all of the above. On the other hand, reading your impression of "Grecian urn", I shall have look it up and read it anew because you say pretty much the same of this one as I do of "When I have fears".

Sorry about the long rant.

Postby Malcolm » Wed Mar 26, 2003 3:19 pm

That's a great comment - I really enjoyed reading it. I think your observation that "Keats was forced to continuously challenge despondence and despair, and to overcome by accomplishment" is a very helpful insight.

Can you tell me your reading of the last few lines -

then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

I have trouble with these. My best interpretation is that by pure intellectual effort Keats is able to quell his fears by putting them into some greater context (ie the context of the 'wide world'). In this context, love and fame and Keats' own fears and desires 'sink to nothingness' - his only defence against the mental agony he has described previously. The only thing is this seems so austere and self-denying that it feels very uncharacteristic of JK.

What do you think? Is this what Keats is actually telling us, or am I missing something a bit more subtle?
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Re: When I have fears

Postby Despondence » Thu Mar 27, 2003 5:56 pm

It is a valid question, and I think your interpretation is entirely plausible and probably close to the truth, although I might have placed emphases slightly differently. Maybe a reason that you feel your own interpretation "uncharacteristic of JK" lies within the wordings "intellectual effort" and "quell".

More than an intellectual effort, I read it as a conclusion of his heart, and a reconciliation of his mind thereunto. In this way, it comes out not so much as an act of quelling the surmounting Woe, but rather as a solemn recognition, and due acceptance. Like the acknowledging of an old acquaintance; Solitude, Despondence and Despair, all come to greet him, and he's waving back, saying: "I know you well, and fear you not; should I have no other Muse, you shall serve, but never will I serve you. This poem you may have."

That "Love and Fame to nothingness do sink" I read as precisely that - them sinking beyond him, or Keats being removed from their sphere of influence, releasing him to explore in unfettered and disillusioned apprehension. This is not self-denying as I see it, but extreme self-recognition on a level with nirvana, or total harmony with the world; however scathing and unyielding it be, so it must be, and I must remain as I am, that I alone may know the solitude of my heart and impose it upon none other. In this, at least, I am free.

Well, I don't know if any of this makes any sense - it is a common disease of mine to become too fancy and too much removed from reality when immersed in abstract speculations of this kind. Hope it might convey something, anyway.

Postby Malcolm » Thu Mar 27, 2003 7:06 pm

Definitely some food for thought there. Your phrase "extreme self-recognition on a level with nirvana" reminds me a bit of Keat's description of Wordsworth's philosophy/ style as the 'egotistical sublime', and his observation that Wordsworth was 'the least of an egotist it is possible to be' (if I'm remembering this anywhere near correctly).

Maybe this applies also to 'When I have fears' - Keats is in effect discussing the ability to transcend the ego - and thereby to achieve, as you describe it, a total harmony with the world through extreme self-recognition and acceptance.

Again - I enjoyed your comments. This poem is already starting to grow on me a little!
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A reply

Postby Duse » Mon Mar 31, 2003 8:45 am

To break with established tradition here, I must chime in with my favorite JK poem. Ode on Melancholy is my favorite of his poems. His morbid imagery infuses the work like a foul glitz whilst substance lies just beneath. It's a very sad poem as one who has not read it might expect but also with maybe just a touch of le humour noire. What I believe he is trying to say (based on my own mean understanding of poetry) is that to know joy, to know love, is to know sorrow. The line "Aye in the very temple of delight, veil'd melancholy has her sovran shrine" states this eloquently. as well as "though seen by none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine." I think the wording here is just godlike. Keats also gets a little inspirational and urges not to give up on life during the rough times but to stand resolute and "glut thy sorrow" on the simple beauty of life so that you may know joy again.

Keats poems

Postby sharky2173 » Fri May 16, 2003 10:08 am

:roll: Great Keats poems include:

Ode to melencholy

Eve of St Agnes


Ode to a nightingale (rather that a nighting gale as stated before 8))
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Postby JustMe » Fri May 30, 2003 4:11 pm

Ah, how can I choose?

I love "Bright star, were I stedfast" and Odes to Psyche, Grecian Urn and Nightingale.

But the first two stanzas of Endymion, I think were the most beautiful pieces of poetry I'd ever read. I read them over and over. I haven't even read the rest of Endymion yet. "A thing of beauty is a joy forever" and "flowery wreaths to bind us to the earth". Magnificent.

Postby Miranda » Sat May 31, 2003 7:37 pm

'Ode to Nightingale' has always captured my imagination. It seems to me to be such an inexpressibly beautiful exploration of Keats' main preoccupations. His ambivalent attitudes to death are fascinating 'Darkling, I listen'. There is so much tenderness imbued in the word 'darkling' and yet almost fearful overtone, breathless, anticipatory...stunning. To me, Keats' work generally is a poetic ideal. The imagery is so rich and the philosophy suggested in every word on the page. Keats' view of himself as a poet is a theme that fascinates me in everyone of his poems I read, this ongoing tussle with his imagination and his reason-fabulous, and how brilliant to express it in such beautiful terms 'the fancy cannot cheat so well as she is famed to do, deceiving elf' (am recalling sso apologies for any textual inconsistency!). The magical lure of a word such as elf used the personify Keats' imagination, his very essence, and then that wonderful, quasi-oxymoronic adjective 'deceiving'. This poem makes me hold my breath do the very end, and how poignant a valete! 'fled is that music. Do I wake?or sleep?'. This uncertainty, dichotomy even, seems to be at the very heart of Keats' world view. If you want to read a pioneering genius attempting to define the indefineable, then 'Ode to a Nightingale' makes for richly rewarding reading.

fav poem

Postby student » Fri Jun 06, 2003 1:58 pm

thank u all very much for ur views. i am doing my A level very soon in which i have to study keats and bring in opinions of other people as well as my own. by reading ur comments i can use those as well as my own! they r all very insightful and helpful and have given me a lot to think about!

even though i have to study Keats it has been a labour of love! it has introduced me to a poet i not only understand but want to no what makes him tick! my favourite poem has to be 'When i Have Fears' because u get to the heart of keats and can actually see through his eyes and what he is experiencing in his head and by understanding that poem u can understand anf enjoy everything else he has written!

thank u all again


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