So I just studied John Keats’ biography and it instantly made me sad. Unlike other Romantic poets, he was the meekest, sweetest, most naïve and innocent poet during the Romantic era. Not only did he die young, he died with a fatally ill body and a severely broken heart. He’s the poor schmuck you feel bad about for not getting the girl, for not getting the polite treatment and kindness he deserved. Basically, he was just like one of the supporting characters of my WIP, the MMC’s little brother, Ted.
Anyway, John Keats, like me, was born in a working class family that couldn’t afford him privileged education in places like Eton or Oxford or Cambridge. But the school his parents could afford to send him was a good one, much better and liberal than those supercilious schools.
John Keats was also confused about his career and passion in the beginning. He didn’t have the luxury, like Byron, Shelley and Wordsworth had, to be a poet. He had to suffer from debts his whole life, had to constantly sacrifice his love and passion for literature and poetry just to earn scrapes of money to fend for himself.
As if that wasn’t enough, most of his works, during his lifetime, were harshly criticized. One of those brutal critics went as far as to humiliate him and told him to go back to being an apothecary. That bastard! He just memorialized himself as that stupid, idiot critic who, because of his biased disgust to Keats’ low social status and not being an Oxford or Cambridge alumni, just blasted what later became one of his best work.
Anyway, there are several reasons why I love, love, love, love, love John Keats.
01) His amazing poems:
Unlike Blake, he didn’t preach for religion. Unlike Byron, he didn’t justify sexual promiscuity. Unlike Shelley and Coleridge, he wasn’t concerned about political upheavals. He only wrote about what he loved and devoted.
He was, in my opinion, the truest of the Romantic poet. His poems had sensuality, beauty, love and devotion for nature, arts and everything worth wasting your free time for. His poems, or should I say, Odes, were much loved after critics stopped being an asshole to him. His imageries were vivid and evoking. The way he poured his emotions in his words…beaute…!!
02) His Love life with Fanny Brawne:
So romantic! They exchanged hundreds of letters, all passionate and romantic and not at all pretentious and fake. One of his famous odes, Ode to Psyche, is said to be a love poem to Fanny Brawne. Psyche being Fanny Brawne and Keats offering to erect a temple for her in his heart and worship her all the time.
Many people will find it corny. Even I did by the time I realized it. But the way he presented it? Not. At. All!
Even his letters exchanged with her are thoroughly scrutinized today to learn more about the poet.
Here’s an example:
“My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you – I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again – my Life seems to stop there – I see no further. You have absorb’d me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving – I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you … I have been astonished that Men could die Martyrs for religion – I have shudder’d at it – I shudder no more – I could be martyr’d for my Religion – Love is my religion – I could die for that – I could die for you.”
And that’s not all. After he died miserably in Rome, Fanny mourned for twelve freaking years. Then she finally got married and had three kids with her husband. Talk about mourning! These days, people almost sigh in relief after their boyfriends or girlfriends leave them.
03) His Harmless Ambition and How Badly The Critics Hurt It:
If I could, I’d have drilled those stupid critics’ heads and see if there is any brain there at all! I mean, okay fine, you don’t like this writer or poet’s stuff. Who gave you the right to bash it like that? I don’t like a lot of books. But I don’t go bashing them in public like that.
Here’s why I was angry:
“It is a better and a wiser thing to be a starved apothecary than a starved poet; so back to the shop Mr John, back to plasters, pills, and ointment boxes”
Seriously? Grow a heart, man! The poor guy is at least trying. Just because his dad worked in an inn’s stable and couldn’t send his son to expensive schools, doesn’t give you the right to judge his works that way.
What’s funny though, Shelley, Keats’ contemporary, wrote a poem for the poor schumck. Adonais! He thought Keats died of a broken heart because if the critics, not knowing that it was tuberculosis after all.
04) His Excruciatingly Painful Death:
This is how he died…
But he also suffered before that. He couldn’t tolerate cold weather of England. He couldn’t digest food properly. He had lots of internal bleeding even after the doctors treated him. In fact, the doctors made it worse. Keats implored for some opium, not for enjoyment but to relieve him of the pains, but none listened.
This is how, according to his lousy friend, Severn, Keats died:
“Keats raves till I am in a complete tremble for him…about four, the approaches of death came on. [Keats said] ‘Severn—I—lift me up—I am dying—I shall die easy; don’t be frightened—be firm, and thank God it has come.’ I lifted him up in my arms. The phlegm seem’d boiling in his throat, and increased until eleven, when he gradually sank into death, so quiet, that I still thought he slept.”
Poor, poor lamb…
05) His Remarkably and Impressing Life:
He was truly like a meek lamb. Unlike his contemporaries, he had a a clean slate. He wasn’t a womanizer like Byron, didn’t have incestuous relationships like Byron (confirmed and convinced) and Wordsworth (implied and doubtful). He didn’t roam around naked in his house like Blake did. He didn’t take opium or any other drug to get high like Coleridge. He didn’t elope and got married right after his estranged wife committed suicide like Shelley did.
He was born in a very struggling family, got inspiration from books and contemporaries, fell head over heels in love with a beautiful girl, treated her like a goddess, struggled to make both ends meet, exposed himself to tuberculosis just to take care of his brother that later brought him death.
But what I most liked about him was his harmless ambition.
A lot of people have ambitions. And most people destroy both their morals and others lives to achieve it.
But not Keats. He never used anyone for his selfish motives, never broke anyone’s heart, and never put his ambitions and passions over others feelings. He was just a meek, humble man, who wanted to be remembered with reverence after his death.
And thank God! He achieved it.
For now, that’s all. Au revoir!