Life According to Keats: 10 Quotes on the Essence of Living

Though he had only 54 poems published in his lifetime, John Keats is recognized as one of the greatest poets of the romantic era. Mostly noted for his series of odes, Keats used gentle language and natural imagery to illustrate his subtle philosophies on life.

John Keats was born in London on October 31, 1795. He was the eldest of four children from a lower class family with little education and constant financial struggles. By the age of 14, Keats had lost both of his parents. After their death, he left school to pursue a career as an apothecary. However, it was not long until Keats decided that he would leave medicine to pursue poetry.

Keats’s best work falls between ages 23 and 24 when he consecutively produced some of his greatest works, such as “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “To Autumn.” By 1820, however, Keats was showing symptoms of tuberculosis. He traveled to Italy hoping that the climate would improve his condition, yet the disease claimed his life in February of 1821. Keats was only 25 years old. 

Though Keats’s life was brief, his work exemplifies a unique philosophy. Throughout his personal letters and poetry, Keats explores the significance of happiness, beauty, and creativity amidst a world of suffering. Perhaps we could all learn something from the way Keats contemplated the realities of everyday life.

Here are 10 of Keats’s quotes that remind us to appreciate the essence of living:

Sensations
“O for a life of Sensations rather than of Thoughts!”
Letter to Benjamin Bailey : November 22, 1817

Stop&Consider
“Stop and consider! life is but a day; / A fragile dew-drop on its perilous way / From a tree’s summit.”
Sleep and Poetry

Scenery
“Scenery is fine, but human nature is finer”
Letter to Benjamin Bailey : November 22, 1817

holinessofheart
“I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of Imagination—What the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth—whether it existed before or not—for I have the same Idea of all our Passions as of Love they are all in their sublime, creative of essential Beauty—”
Letter to Benjamin Bailey : November 22, 1817

Ode on a grecian urn
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty’—that is all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
Ode On A Grecian Urn

A thing of beauty
“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:/ Its loveliness increases; it will never/ Pass into nothingness;”
Endymion

pains and troubles
“Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?”
Letter to George and Georgiana Keats : February 14 – May 3, 1819

go amongst the city
“I go amongst the buildings of a city and I see a Man hurrying along—to what?”
Letter to George and Georgiana Keats : February 14 – May 3, 1819 

“I compare human life to a large Mansion of Many Apartments, two of which I can only describe, the doors of the rest being as yet shut upon me”
“I compare human life to a large Mansion of Many Apartments, two of which I can only describe, the doors of the rest being as yet shut upon me”
Letter to J. H. Reynolds : May 3, 1818 

“Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced — Even a proverb is no proverb to you till your Life has illustrated it.”
“Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced—Even a proverb is no proverb to you till your Life has illustrated it.”
Letter to George and Georgiana Keats : February 14 – May 3, 1819

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