Salient features of Keats' poetry
Romanticism primarily was a revolt against the artificial, pseudo-classical poetry in 18th Century. Wordsworth was the founder of this movement. Romantic poets can be divided into two groups – Old Romantics and Young Romantics. In old Romantics there are Wordsworth, Coleridge and Scott. Wordsworth, Coleridge and Scott belong to Early Romantics, whereas Keats, Shelley, and Byron constitute the Later Romantics. Among all the Romantics, Keats was the last to born and first to die. But quite surprisingly he achieved in 26 years what other could not get ever the whole of their life. Keats is also said to be the most romantic of all the romantics. He was greatly inspired by Greek art, culture and mythology. He was also inspired by Elizabethan poets especially Spenser.
Keats is a pure romantic poet. He writes poetry for the sake of poetry. He believes in art for art’s sake. He does not write poetry for any palpable design or any propaganda. His major concern is to give pleasure. It means that his chief concern is pleasure. Whereas some other romantics have been writing poetry for the propagation of their objectives as Wordsworth and Shelley were in the favour of French Revolution. But Keats is least concern with the social issues of life.
Love for nature is the chief characteristic of all he romantics. Keats also loves nature but he loves nature for the sake of nature. He does not give any theory or ideology about nature. He only admires the beauty of nature. But on the other hand, Wordsworth spiritualizes nature, Coleridge finds some supernatural elements in nature, Shelley intellectualizes nature and Byron is interested in the vigorous aspects of nature.
Keats was a pure poet as he does not project any theory in his poetry. Keats believes in Negative Capability – the capability of being impersonal. Keats does not involve his personal feelings in his poetry. He writes poetry only for pleasure but Shelley lacks Negative Capability. Shelley lends his personal sorrow and feeling in his poetry. He could not be impersonal and writes about his feelings and sorrows.
Keats is a sensuous poet. It means that he writes his poetry with his penta senses. We not only enjoy his poetry rather we can taste, touch, see and hear all the ideas presented in his poetry. We enjoy his poetry with all our penta sense. The whole of our body is involved in his poetry when we read him. Keats’ imagery is static and concrete whereas Shelley’s imagery is dynamic and abstract. Keats’ imagery shows the calmness of Keats’ mind whereas Shelley’s poetry shows his neurotic and confusing attitude.
Keats was also Hellenistic like all romantics. He was inspired by Hellenism. Hellenism was the soul of his poetry. There are many Hellenistic features in his poetry such as his Greek instinct, his love for Greek literature, his love with Greek sculpture and art, his Greek temperament, his love for beauty and the touch of fatalism and tragedy. His attitude of melancholy is also Hellenistic.