Keats' Letters: Greatest of any poet?

The life of John Keats the man: his family, his friends, and his contemporaries.

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Keats Letters: Greatest of any poet?

Yes
11
85%
No, specify another
2
15%
 
Total votes : 13

Keats' Letters: Greatest of any poet?

Postby Saturn » Wed May 19, 2004 11:38 pm

Keats' Letters have long been regarded as some of the most insightful, and self-analysing of any English poet we possess.

I am sure even Shakespeare didn't write such penetrating stuff as Keats did. Of course, we'll never know as his are lost in the chasm of time.

In the letters we see the growth of an individual mind from the 'chamber of Maiden thought' to the higher relms of intellect, and then, the tragic decline of the heartbreaking later letters, where all Keats' frustrations are bubbling out in a paroxysm of pain and anguish.

They are a complete document of all his many moods and thoughts on every subject under the sun. An invaluable record of a unique human being, who felt almost all that most people experience in a long life in his own tragically short one.

Surely they are the supreme example of a man's mind forming itself before our eyes; his life unfolding as we read with such fascination.

Anyone have any thoughts on this?

I will be interested to read others' views on this fantastic resource of the 'living hand' of a supreme artist.
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Good descriptions.....

Postby Ellen » Sat May 22, 2004 10:52 pm

Hello!

The reason I have become recently interested in Keats is because of his vivid descriptions and feelings. When he says tender is the night in a poem I remember F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel of the same name. When Keats wrote about how touch had memory, I could almost physically feel via memory. Keats will affect future literature for hundreds of years, just as Keats may have been influenced by the literature of ancient Greece as in Ode to a Grecian Urn. 8)

I personally do not have a favorite poet right now because there are so many good ones. Mustn't hurt anyone's feelings! Thomas Hardy wrote some excellent poetry. He actually quit writing successful novels in order to write more poetry. I think that some of his novels were so controversial, he just decided to move in a different direction and chose poetry next.

Since I am American, I have usually focused on American literature, particularly novels of the early 20th century. I have recently began to study German literature such as Goethe. But so much can be lost in translation, so I decided that Keats may be a good source for literary ideas for story starters. Many of my story starters come from biographies. I like to read about this famous person, then try to visualize this person in a different life, for instance, what would the life be like if he/she had decided to be a doctor instead of an actor, whatever. I haven't accomplished much in terms of my writing, and I am just a beginner.

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Postby Despondence » Sun May 23, 2004 5:06 pm

Not having read such material of any other poet as even by a stretch could be compared to Keats' "Letters", I'd have to say "Yes" :) Although I could not rightly cast a vote.

One thing (among many!) that I loved about the Letters, is the philanthropic philosopher we get to know. Not merely was he a poet (sure a lover too), but also expressed in the Letters are many elements of a keen philosophy of life and being. Which is a little ironic, since he strongly disliked the cold logic of the proclaimed sophists'.

And, I think I can safely state that I have not come across the converse yet - an insightful philosopher who was also a worthy poet. (all right - you have my vote!)
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Byron's letters a close second?

Postby Saturn » Sun May 23, 2004 11:33 pm

I too haven't read many letters of any other poet apart from those of Byron.

They are, for sheer entertainment value, the most enjoyable of any I've read, and also are full of great experiences, fantastic places, people, and the real sense of a life in motion, of the blood flowing in his nervous hand; all written with a devilishly satirical, and humourous grasp of the human experience. He also gives his own peculiar philosophy of life, which is borne out of his prodigious reading.

I'd definitely give a second place to Byron's letters, and would highly recommend them to anybody who wants to learn what life was like for the higher echelons of English society at the time, and what life was like being the most adored and despised literary figure in Europe - the first 'modern' celebrity.

Even if you can't stand his poetry (woe betide thee!), I defy anyone not to be fascinated by his complex personality.

Forgive this heinous blasphemy on my part!
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Why Keats wasn't about feelings

Postby MonroeDoctrine » Mon Jun 07, 2004 7:36 am

The most important thing about Keats is not how he feels!
The most important thing about Keats is in fact how he thinks!
If you notice my dear Ellen, Keats ends his To Some Ladies, Ode on A Grecian Urn poems discussing thought, not how he feels!
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Postby Wickers_Poet » Mon Feb 14, 2005 3:41 am

Pope's letters are better but they're in 5 volumes and after years of searching I have found only 1 available copy on ebay for 600 which is an impossibly unaffordable for me. There's a CD Rom edition which just can't be bought anyhow. One of my university professors has them but I daren't ask him to borrow them!

At least Keats' letters are in print or if not in print there's copies available.
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Postby Steen » Wed Mar 30, 2005 9:34 pm

I have only read Keats letters...I really must read more. But I think they are very good.
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Postby Becky » Mon Apr 11, 2005 9:55 am

Pope's letters are better but they're in 5 volumes and after years of searching I have found only 1 available copy on ebay for 600 which is an impossibly unaffordable for me. There's a CD Rom edition which just can't be bought anyhow. One of my university professors has them but I daren't ask him to borrow them!



You could try becoming a member of a uni or specialist library. You have to pay, but not 600.

I've read some of Shelley's letters, but they seem to be mostly of the I did this...then that...then we went here...see you soon variety. Not quite as exciting as Keats.
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Postby redan » Sat May 13, 2006 1:36 am

Milton. Blake. Hart Crane. Wallace Stevens.

Wallace Stevens wrote my favorite letter by a poet of all time. Someone wrote to ask him who Hoon was in his poem Tea at the Palaz of Hoon. He replied that Hoon was the son of Old Man Hoon....

Milton wrote a gazillion letters-- many in Latin. He was Secretary of Tongues for the Cromwell Government [Foreign Secretary, Secretary of State].

The Blake letter that has the poem in it 'My Spectre round me night & Day' is worth ALL of Keats letters.

I'm not trying to flame or troll, because I love Keats right well.

Some of Emily D's letters...

Keats' letters are spectacular. Fortunately, no artist can stand alone. It's not an Atlas Thing...
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Postby dks » Sat May 13, 2006 3:23 am

Nah, it's pretty much an Atlas Thing and Keats holds the world on his shoulders with invariable ease--while pouring out on it his balm of poesy at the same time...piece o'cake...

:roll:

:lol:
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Postby Credo Buffa » Sat May 13, 2006 5:48 am

I'm not actually familiar with the letters of any other poet, so I don't feel I can fairly say that Keats's are the best. It also depends on what you mean by "best." Is it that they are beautifully written? Is it that they present poignant ideas? Is it that they contain reflections on the artist's work? Is it that they reveal the artist's personal character? Surely, Keats's letters do all of these things on a regular basis. . . but then again, others surely do the same.

Though I said that I have no comparison between Keats's letters and those of other poets, I do have a book of Mozart's letters. While they may not be as eloquent (although some of that may be due to the fact that I am reading them in translation), they are fascinating and absorbing in that they reveal so much about the kind of person he was. . . Really, they affirm that he was in fact a real person, since it is so easy to put him on a pedestal and think of him as almost a demigod rather than a human being who actually walked the Earth and made silly jokes and ate ice cream. What's more, we have a large volume of them spanning most of his lifetime, from the time he was still a young boy touring Europe as a child prodigy to the end of his life. He writes in multiple languages (including a few phrases in English), offers a great amount of information into what it was like to travel and be in the musical world of 18th century Europe, and explains quite passionately his ideas about not only music, but his progressive, liberal ideas.

Would I say Keats's letters are better than Mozart's letters? Well, you can't really compare them, because they both do so much for the reader's understanding of the artist.
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Re: Keats' Letters: Greatest of any poet?

Postby Heaven/Hell » Thu Sep 06, 2007 1:12 pm

Saturn wrote:I am sure even Shakespeare didn't write such penetrating stuff as Keats did. Of course, we'll never know as his are lost in the chasm of time.


It seems that no formal literary work of "Shakespeare"'s prevails, in the form of letters and manuscripts and early draughts. For such a prolific playwright/poet, we should have something pertaining to the personal mind of the mind outside his profession, but nothing. Hence the view (quite convincing too) that Shakespeare is none other than a pseudonym of another writer, and the one most cited is Francis Bacon. This is the opinion of several but I've read Richard Maurice Bucke's argument in his ground-breaking study of the intuitive/imaginative mind Cosmic Consciousness. But that's another topic for another day...

I voted "yes", for Keats seemed to have a greater understanding for the poetic faculty (even Coleridge alludes to Keats' personal interpretations of imagination in his own critique/analysis of it). I at first saw his intimation that "I will surely remain as one of the premier poets in the English language" as arrogant, but maybe it was just perceptive.
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Re: Keats' Letters: Greatest of any poet?

Postby Saturn » Thu Sep 06, 2007 2:35 pm

Heaven/Hell wrote:
Saturn wrote:I am sure even Shakespeare didn't write such penetrating stuff as Keats did. Of course, we'll never know as his are lost in the chasm of time.


It seems that no formal literary work of "Shakespeare"'s prevails, in the form of letters and manuscripts and early draughts. For such a prolific playwright/poet, we should have something pertaining to the personal mind of the mind outside his profession, but nothing. Hence the view (quite convincing too) that Shakespeare is none other than a pseudonym of another writer, and the one most cited is Francis Bacon. This is the opinion of several but I've read Richard Maurice Bucke's argument in his ground-breaking study of the intuitive/imaginative mind Cosmic Consciousness. But that's another topic for another day...



Oh no, you do love those conspiracy theories don't you?

Honestly I've heard all the Shakespeare conspiracies, read a dozen theories and the so-called evidence but I really don't think it cuts the mustard at all.

Some people it seems just refuse to accept Shakespeare wasn't an aristo. The idea of the greatest poet in the English language being a lower middle-class country boy is too much for some in the literary establishment to fathom so they try and discredit him.
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Re: Keats' Letters: Greatest of any poet?

Postby AsphodelElysium » Thu Sep 06, 2007 3:38 pm

Heaven/Hell wrote:I voted "yes", for Keats seemed to have a greater understanding for the poetic faculty (even Coleridge alludes to Keats' personal interpretations of imagination in his own critique/analysis of it). I at first saw his intimation that "I will surely remain as one of the premier poets in the English language" as arrogant, but maybe it was just perceptive.


It is also worth noting that while Keats did make some seemingly arrogant remarks, his character was generously tempered with self-doubt. One of the most heart-breaking passages I've ever read follows thus,

"Now I have had opportunities of passing nights anxious and awake I have found other thoughts intrude upon me. 'If I should die,' said I to myself, 'I have left no immortal work behind me - nothing to make my friends proud of my memory - but I have loved the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had had time I would have made myself remembered.'"

Reading that in the light of what he had wrote up to that point, some of the most beautiful verse in the English language, just demonstrates what could be seen as a lack of faith in his own abilities. I have the nagging feeling sometimes that it wouldn't have mattered to him what he wrote, it would never have been good enough for him, despite some of his bravado.
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Postby Malia » Thu Sep 06, 2007 4:56 pm

I think that, like so many other genius types, Keats' mental abilities probably outstripped his physical ability to write--even though his writing abilities were (at their peak) stellar. I can see how he might be frustrated. . .having such amazing ideas and then only being able to translate a fraction of their greatness onto paper.
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