Keats was born in London on 31 October 1795, the eldest of Thomas
and Frances Jennings Keats's four children. Traditionally, he was said
to have been born in his maternal grandfather's stable, the Swan and
Hoop, near what is now Finsbury Circus, but there is no real evidence
for this birthplace, or for the belief that his family was particularly
poor. Thomas Keats managed the stable for his father-in-law and
later owned it.
In April 1804, when Keats was eight, his father died. The cause of
death was a skull fracture, suffered when he fell from his horse while
returning from a visit to Keats and his brother George at schoollive
with their grandmother,
In March 1810 when Keats was 14, his mother died of tuberculosis,
leaving the children in the custody of their grandmother. She
appointed two guardians, Richard Abbey and John Sandell to take
care of them.
Having finished his apprenticeship with Hammond,
Keats registered as a medical student at Guy’s
Hospital (now part of King’s College London) and
began studying there in October 1815.
During these years 1811-1814, other than that Keats
assisted Hammond and began the study of anatomy
In 1816, Keats received his apothecary’s licence, which
made him eligible to practise as an apothecary,
physician, and surgeon, but before the end of the year
he announced to his guardian that he was resolved to
be a poet, not a surgeon
Keats spent the summer of 1818 on a
walking tour in Northern England and
Scotland, returning home to care for
his brother, Tom, who suffered from
tuberculosis. While nursing his
brother, Keats met and fell in love with
a woman named Fanny Brawne.
Letters and drafts of poems suggest
that Keats first met Frances (Fanny)
Brawne between September and
Keats's first volume, Poems, appeared on 3 March 1817, with its
dedicatory sonnet to Leigh Hunt. It begins with "I stood tip-toe,"
ends with another long poem, "Sleep and Poetry,“
Endymion, a four-thousand-line erotic/allegorical romance
based on the Greek myth of the same name, appeared the
following year. Two of the most influential critical magazines of
the time, the Quarterly Review and Blackwood's Magazine,
attacked the collection. Calling the romantic verse of Hunt's
literary circle "the Cockney school of poetry," Blackwood's
declared Endymion to be nonsense and recommended that Keats
give up poetry. Shelley, who privately disliked Endymion but
recognized Keats's genius, wrote a more favorable review, but it
was never published. Shelley also exaggerated the effect that the
criticism had on Keats, attributing his declining health over the
following years to a spirit broken by the negative reviews.
In July 1820, he published his third and best volume of
poetry, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other
Poems. The three title poems, dealing with mythical and
legendary themes of ancient, medieval, and Renaissance
times, are rich in imagery and phrasing.
The volume also contains the unfinished "Hyperion," and
three poems considered among the finest in the English
language, "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "Ode on Melancholy,"
and "Ode to a Nightingale." The book received enthusiastic
praise from Hunt, Shelley, Charles Lamb, and others, and
in August, Frances Jeffrey, influential editor of the
Edinburgh Review, wrote a review praising both the new
book and Endymion.
Lamia [Left to herself]
Left to herself, the serpent now began To change; her elfin
blood in madness ran, Her mouth foam'd, and the grass,
therewith besprent, Wither'd at dew so sweet and virulent;
Her eyes in torture fix'd, and anguish drear, Hot, glaz'd,
and wide, with lid-lashes all sear, Flash'd phosphor and
I cry your mercy-pity-love! -aye, love!"
By John Keats
I cry your mercy—pity—love!—aye, love!
Merciful love that tantalizes not,
One-thoughted, never-wandering, guileless love,
Unmasked, and being seen—without a blot!
O! let me have thee whole,—all—all—be mine!
That shape, that fairness, that sweet minor zest
Of love, your kiss,—those hands, those eyes divine,
That warm, white, lucent, million-pleasured breast,
Yourself—your soul—in pity give me all,
Withhold no atom’s atom or I die
Or living on perhaps, your wretched thrall,
Forget, in the mist of idle misery,
Life’s purposes,—the palate of my mind
Losing its gust, and my ambition blind!
By John Keats 1795–1821
And what is love? It is a doll dress’d up
For idleness to cosset, nurse, and dandle;
A thing of soft misnomers, so divine
That silly youth doth think to make itself
Divine by loving, and so goes on
Yawning and doting a whole summer long,
Till Miss’s comb is made a pearl tiara,
And common Wellingtons turn Romeo boots;
Then Cleopatra lives at number seven,
And Antony resides in Brunswick Square.
Fools! if some passions high have warm’d the world,
If Queens and Soldiers have play’d deep for hearts,
It is no reason why such agonies
Should be more common than the growth of weeds.
Fools! make me whole again that weighty pearl
The Queen of Egypt melted, and I’ll say
That ye may love in spite of beaver hats.
The day is gone, and all its sweets are gone
By John Keats 1795–1821
The day is gone, and all its sweets are gone!
Sweet voice, sweet lips, soft hand, and softer breast,
Warm breath, light whisper, tender semi-tone,
Bright eyes, accomplish’d shape, and lang’rous waist!
Faded the flower and all its budded charms,
Faded the sight of beauty from my eyes,
Faded the shape of beauty from my arms,
Faded the voice, warmth, whiteness, paradise –
Vanish’d unseasonably at shut of eve,
When the dusk holiday – or holinight
Of fragrant-curtain’d love begins to weave
The woof of darkness thick, for hid delight,
But, as I’ve read love’s missal through to-day,
He’ll let me sleep, seeing I fast and pray.
(A draft of the Sonnet ‘On the Sea’ follows )
I find that I cannot exist without poetry—without eternal poetry—half the day will not
do—the whole of it—I began with a little, but habit has made me a Leviathan—I had
become all in a Tremble from not having written any thing of late—the Sonnet over leaf
did me some good. I slept the better last night for it—this Morning, however, I am
nearly as bad again—Just now I opened Spencer, and the first Lines I saw were these.—
‘The noble Heart that harbors virtuous thought,
And is with Child of glorious great intent,
Can never rest, until it forth have brought
Th’ eternal Brood of Glory excellent—’