John Keats as Romantic Poet | Characteristics of Romantic Poetry

John Keats as Romantic Poet | Characteristics of Romantic Poetry

John Keats’ does not write on social issues because the genre of his poetry is romantic. In fact, he does not touch them and keeps himself away from them. He is of the view that it is not necessary to explain what is happening in the world so far as the real purpose of poetry is concerned. John Keats is last but the best romantic poet in English Literature if we critically evaluate his poems. It is because he is not a social poet. Social poetry deals with the social and political problems of society.

Unlike John Keats, many great poets demonstrate social problems in their poems. They explicate follies in people and also satirize society by using cynical words. Some poets talk about politics, whereas others comment on people’s behaviour but John Keats has no nexus with politics nor does he lay a hand on norms of the civilization in his poems as he is purely romantic.

Every romantic poet has his own writing style. Romantic poetry has many factors. It is on the poet which ingredient he prefers the most. Some poets prefer nature, some support escapism, and others believe in supernatural elements. Poet John Keats is also not different from others in this regard as he and other romantic poets of his era also critically evaluate these fundamentals of romantic poetry.

Some common factors of romantic poetry are:

  • Pure Poetry
  • Escapism
  • Quest for beauty
  • Love of past
  • Quest for nature
  • Supernatural elements

These common yet important elements of romantic poetry can be found in the poetry of John Keats.

John Keats is a Pure Romantic Poet:

Every poem of John Keats deals with problems of his own. His poetry is objective. It is neither for the sake of criticism nor to apprise the people of any society. He gives neither any message nor advice to his readers. His poetry lacks morality. His words are not sarcastic. He does poetry for the sake of poetry only. John Keats, hence, is considered the purest poet in the history of English Literature.

What does pure poetry mean? Isn’t it the duty of a poet to deal with social problems and to tell people that they are committing blunders? A single answer to these questions is that the primary purpose of poetry is not to raise a voice against problems in society. There may be poets who consider themselves duty-bound to talk about wrong-doings of society yet it is not what poetry is done for; the poetry, which gives pleasure to the senses is considered best and therefore can be called purest poetry.

Pure poetry is a vital element of romantic poetry. If we critically evaluate John Keats as a romantic poet we find that his purpose to do poetry only for poetry is one of the major factors which makes him a romantic poet.

John Keats as Romantic Poet | Characteristics of Romantic Poetry

Escapism Makes John Keats A Romantic Poet:

He has been bestowed with the wonderful power of imagination. John Keats is the most romantic poet, therefore, he is the most escapist of them all. When he remains failed to face the harsh realities of life, he finds pleasure in his imagination, where he creates a world of his own. He enjoys the company of birds, flowers, landscapes, mountains and rivers in his imagination. For example in one of his romantic poems “Ode to Nightingale”, John Keats creates his imaginative world where he enjoys the sweet eternal song of the nightingale which provides peace to his mind and harmony to his soul.

Far far away, and quite forget
What thou amongst the leaves hast never known,
The wariness, the fever, and the fret,
There, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad last grey hairs,
Where youth grows pale and specter-thin an dies,
Where but to think if to be full of sorrows,
And leaden-eyed despairs.”

In his eyes, the world is cruel and the only option we have is escapism. Through his poetry, he wants to prove that the pains of life cannot be contested, therefore, escapism is the only choice. The world is barren and colourless, whereas imagination is full of colours. In imagination he forgets worries of life and can do anything that he wants; even such things which are impossible in real life. Escapism is the most important ingredient of romantic poetry. It is available in the poetry of John Keats and makes him the best romantic poet.

Keats Quests for Beauty:

Beauty is the religion of John Keats. He can find it in birds, clouds, art, forests, flowers even in Greek mythology. He is a passionate lover of beauty. His poetry directly hits the senses of his readers. According to him, beauty is everlasting and it always affects all five senses. Even in worries, pains, sufferings and disappointments, he enriches his poetry with sensuous beauty. “Hyperion” for instance, is a sad and depressing poem yet Keats cannot stop himself from mentioning beauty when he says “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”.

Keats’ imagination increases the importance of beauty and in his imagination, he goes beyond the senses. He talks about those things, which he has never experienced in his life. In one of his poems, he writes:

“Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter”.

Further, he declares beauty a truth when he writes: “Beauty is truth and truth beauty, –that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Thus, undoubtedly he is a great lover of beauty and avails every opportunity to praise it. Quests for beauty also help John Keats to stand apart from his rival romantic poet.

Keats Loves Greek and Medieval Literature:

Love for the past is also another important element of his poetry. Ancient Greeks and their myths are a matter of interest to him. His love for Greeks is highly appreciated by many other poets of his era. In many of his poems, he talks about the Greeks’ spirits and culture. Viewing the love of John Keats for Greeks, Shelly said: “Keats was a Greek”. He reads Greek classics due to which his interest in their culture increases. Besides, he also loves their art.

“Ode to Grecian Urn” is among the most discussed poems, which is a naked example of John Keats’ love for Greeks through romantic poetry. He compares art with mortality in this ode. He calls art immortal and humans mortals. Art, he says, will remain forever, whereas humans will fade and pale one day. A Greek artist has sculptured some images on the urn and Keats has something to say about it. He felt in it the calm “grandeur” of Greek art, its symmetry and simplicity, and lastly sense of proportion, its subordination of parts to the whole. He is a lunatic for beauty and beauty is the soul of his poetry.

Thus, in his imagination, he remembers people of the Greeks who are introduced to him through Greek literature. Keats’ Hellenism is notable in this regard. Not only Greeks but also people of the medieval period are matters of interest for him. Some of his poems are about the medieval period. So, John Keats’ love for the past also increases the strength of his romantic poetry and makes him a perfect romantic poet.

Keats Loves Nature:

Keats also loves nature and the elements related to it. He converts natural objects into beauty. An ordinary thing becomes extraordinary when it passes through the eyes of John Keats. He has an unbelievable power to create words from natural elements. However, he does not exaggerate them as S.T. Coleridge does.

Besides, the writing style of John Keats has a flow in it. The musical style of writing revives romanticism and also increases the interest of readers.

John Keats’s poetry is an example for upcoming romantic writers. He ignored classicism and preferred romanticism. At that time, when other poets were talking about the French revolution and social issues, Keats bounded himself to writing poetry for the sake of pleasure. In short, John Keats’ love for the past, quest for beauty, escapism and imaginative realism are fine examples that he is at the top of the list of the romantic poets.