John Keats and Contemporaries.

Essay by szsoomroUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, February 2006

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"Beauty is truth and truth beauty, that is all you know on earth, and all you need to know."

One of England's greatest poets, Keats (1813-1817) was a key element in the Romantic Movement. Known especially for his love of the country and sensuous descriptions of the beauty of nature, his poetry also resonated with deep philosophic questions.

Copiousness in exquisite detail, perpetual freshness of phrase, characterize all the poetry of Keats, and in the work of his earlier days are generally more conspicuous than unity of interest or perfection of form; qualities which, his imaginative wealth of mind, prevented him from acquiring until first youth was over. Keats is hence a poet especially fit to be read, as the bee tastes the flower, a little at a time, and in those pleasant places which he loves and describes so well.

To compare any other poet with Keats, we have to define the terms of comparison.

Let us take the aspect of beauty to compare works of legendary poets; Thomas Hardy and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

The most famous formulation of the meaning of beauty is in Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn". The most intense experience of beauty is one of melancholy because the most intense beauty is not on the Grecian urn but in the world that is dying even at the moment one is experiencing it:

She dwells with Beauty - Beauty that must die;

And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips

Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,

Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:

Ay, in the very temple of Delight

Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine,

Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue

Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;

His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,