The Contributions of John Keats to the Period of Romantic Poetry
The period of Romantic poetry occurred between 1798 and 1832, starting with the publication of Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge and ending with the death of Sir Walter Scott. Events such as the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution helped to inspire the time period’s poets to write in the romantic style (notes pg. 1).
Romantic poetry largely consists of the exploration of imagination and emotion. Poets of this period were drawn to medieval topics and were unhappy with the development of industrial life and science. They believed less in trying to explain life and more in experiencing it fully themselves. Nature, the transcendent, and the supernatural were also very popular topics during the time period.
John Keats is believed to have helped establish this romantic style as he used many of these elements in his own poems. He was born on October 31, 1795 in London. He grew up poor and lost his parents at a young age. Originally, he studied to be an apothecary, but instead decided to pursue a career as a poet. He wrote mainly about love, death, and nature because they were very important to him. Keats is believed to have died of tuberculosis, and because of his illness and his assumed depression he felt a connection to the idea of death.
Although love was very prominent in his work, he never settled down. In 1818 he met Fanny Brawne and fell in love with her, but because of his career and failing health they never married. In 1821, he died of his illness at age 25. The exact time Keats wrote his poem Bright Star is unclear, it’s believed to be written about Fanny Brawne. The poem begins with Keats saying, “would I were as stedfast as thou art,” implying that he would like to be as unmoving as a star. He goes on to explain all the reasons he would not like to be a star (lines 2-8). He didn’t want to be lonely, like a star, or look down on earth forever. The only trait he wanted from a star was to be steadfast, because he didn’t want to ever leave his lover’s breast or stop listening to her breathing. He says that if he can’t stay there forever “or else swoon to death.”
This poem fits with the romantic style in that it romanticizes the idea of dying for love as well as the impracticality of never moving from her breast. This was very common during the time period and defined the idea of romantic poetry.