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John Keats - Biography
John Keats was born in London, 31 October, 1795, the son of a livery-stable owner. He was educated at the Clarke School, Enfield and at the age of 15 was apprenticed to a surgeon. Subsequently, from 1814 to 1816, Keats studied medicine in London hospitals; in 1816 he became a licensed apothecary but never practised his profession - deciding instead to be a poet.

Early Works Keats had already written a translation of Virgil's Aeneid and some verse; his first published poems were the sonnets "Oh Solitude if I with Thee Must Dwell" and " On First Looking into Chapman's Homer." Both poems appeared in the Examiner, a literary periodical edited by the essayist and poet Leigh Hunt, one of the principal champions of the romantic movement in English Literature. Hunt introduced Keats to a circle of literary men, including the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; the group's influence enabled Keats to see his first volume published, Poems by John Keats (1817). The principal poems in the volume were the sonnet on Chapman's Homer, the sonnet "To One Who Has Been Long in the City Pent", "I Stood Tip-Toe Upon a Little Hill", and "Sleep and Poetry", which defended the principles of romanticism as promulgated by Hunt and attacked the practice of romanticism as represented by the poet George Gordon, Lord Byron.

Keat's second volume, Endymion, was published in 1818. Based on the myth of Endymion and the moon goddess, it was violently attacked by two of the most influential critical magazines of the time, the Quarterly Review and Blackwoods's Magazine. 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.

Last Works In 1820 Keats became ill with tuberculosis. The illness may have been aggravated by the emotional strain of his devoted attachment to Fanny Brawne, a young woman with whom he had fallen passionately in love. Nevertheless, the period 1818-1820 was one of great creativity for Keats. In July 1820, the third and best of his volumes of poetry, Lamina, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems was published. 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 poem "Hyperion," containing some of Keat's finest work, and three poems considered among the finest in the English language, "Ode to a Grecian Urn", "Ode on Melancholy", and "Ode to a Nightingale"

In the fall of 1820, under his doctor's orders to seek a warm climate for the winter, Keats went to Rome. He died there 23 February, 1821, and was buried in the Protestant cemetery. Some of his best-known poems were posthumously published; among them are "Eve of St. Mark", and "La Belle Dame Sans Merci".

Although Keat's career was short and his output small, critics agree that he has a lasting place in the history of English and world literature. Characterised by exact and closely-knit construction and by force of imagination, his poetry gives transcendental value to the physical beauty of the world. His verbal music is well suited to the unique combination of romantic sentiment and classical clarity his work expresses.

Contributed by Gifford, Katya


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