Key Questions to Ask While Reading Keats

With so much classic literature out there, it can be difficult to know what to read and where to begin. Here at eNotes, we’ve recently been reading the poems of John Keats, and we’re confident you’ll love them as much as we do. Getting started with Keats’s work can be daunting, and you’ll probably have some questions before you dive in. Fortunately, we have answers.

1. Who in the World Is Keats?

John Keats was an English poet who lived during the early 19th century. Orphaned as a child and tasked with the care of his four younger siblings, Keats chose the stable life of a surgeon. However, Keats became so passionate about poetry that he left his life behind, devoting himself entirely to writing. Spurred on by a worsening case of tuberculosis, Keats composed a breathtaking body of poems before dying at just twenty-five. In the decades after his death, Keats came to be known as one of the greatest poets of the Romantic era and of English literature in general.

2. What’s the Deal with “Romantic” Poetry Anyways?

“Romantic” poetry doesn’t mean poetry penned by lovestruck paramours, though that’s sometimes true. Romantic poetry comes from the literary movement of Romanticism, which took hold in England in the late 18th century. The Romantics—from William Blake and William Wordsworth to Percy Shelley and Lord Byron—wrote verse that expressed a passion for the natural world, sublime experience, the artistic process, and classical history. Though he was largely unrecognized in his time, John Keats has come to be known as a quintessential Romantic poet.

3. “Blushful Hippocrene”? “Dales of Arcady”? What Is He Talking About?

Like many of his fellow Romantics, John Keats held a deep fascination with the world of classical antiquity. Keats particularly loved the world of ancient Greece, its many gods and myths. Many of Keats’s most famous poems are filled with references to Greek stories and places. So when you’re reading Keats, be sure to keep a guide to Greek mythology close at hand.

4. Wait, What’s Even the Point of Reading This Stuff?

Keats’s poetry confronts some of the biggest themes in life. In his best poetry, Keats investigates the ache of love, the enormity of history, the mystery of melancholy, and the inevitability of death. Keats’s poems will stun you with their insight and draw you more deeply into life. Plus the rhymes are great!

5. Will Reading Keats Change My Life?