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John Keats was a well-known and talented English poet who lived from 1795 to 1821. Despite his short lifetime, he is one of the world's most popular poets of all time, and his work has been anthologized in many books and educational texts throughout the world.
Born in London, Keats endured a series of great tragedies from a young age. His father died in 1804, after falling from a horse; his mother passed away only six years later from tuberculosis. Keats was only 15 years old, at the time but he became the primary caregiver for his younger brother, Tom. Sadly, Tom also suffered from tuberculosis, and died from the disease in 1818. Two years later, Keats was diagnosed with tuberculosis. On his doctor's advice, he moved from London to Italy, which he hoped would help to restore his heath. Unfortunately, he did not recover from the disease; he died of tuberculosis in 1821.
Although John Keats was only 25 at the time of his death, he left behind a sophisticated and large body of work. He was highly influenced by the work of 16th century English poet Edmund Spencer; Spencer's The Faerie Queen was his favorite work. Keats' work is associated with the Romantic movement, a cultural movement that emphasized emotion and passion over rational thought. Other members of the Romantic movement included fellow writers such as Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, as well as painter and writer William Blake.
One of John Keats' major works is an epic poem called "Endymion," which is based upon a Greek myth about a shepherd's love for the goddess of the moon. This poem was one of his earliest works, and received a generally poor critical reception, though it showed signs of his talent. He followed the epic poem with a series of "odes," or poems addressed to a specific person or object. Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn," written in 1819, is often considered to be one of the greatest works in English literature.
Since his death, Keats has served as a great inspiration to many writers and creative individuals, including Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats. His influence has even spread to the music world; the Smiths singer, Morrissey, includes a reference to John Keats in the band's song, "Cemetery Gates."
I like Keats, too. It truly is a shame he died so young. He's one who probably had several more years of productive work ahead of him, had he lived.
Morrissey can cite Keats as a source all he wants to, but his music is far too dark and angst-ridden to have much of an influence from Keats. People need to be a little more circumspect when they claim influences from famous poets. Someone may have actually read that particular poet and may wonder if the musician was just saying something because it sounded good, not because it actually had more than a grain of truth in it.
Cliche as it may be, I love "Ode on a Grecian Urn," and Keats in general. I also like "Fancy," which is a lovely piece. Keats had a way of using language that was simply beautiful and I deeply appreciate him every time I re-read his works.
He manages to capture an image in fewer words than Coleridge or Shelley, and in a much lovelier tone. Coleridge gets too wordy, and Shelly too dark, but Keats is always airy and bright. Yep, it's got to be Keats. Love him.
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