A Blupete Biography Page

Conclusion, Part 8 to the Life & Works of
John Keats

William Michael Rossetti -- who as a critic of poets and poetry must be put in the front rank -- thought that none of Keats' work had much merit.57 Keats was, as Rossetti wrote, "many-mooded, with a tendency to perverse self-conflict. The circumstances of his brief career -- his poetic ambition, his want of any definite employment, his association with men of literary occupation or taste whom he only half approved, the critical venom poured forth against him, his love thwarted by a mortal malady -- all these things tended to bring out the unruly or morbid." Rossetti thought Keats' poetry was "emotional without substance, and beautiful without control."

The contemporary artist and personal friend of John Keats, Benjamin Haydon was to write:

"One day he was full of an epic poem; the next day epic poems were splendid impositions on the world. Never for two days did he know his own intentions. ... The death of his brother wounded him deeply, and it appeared to me that he began to droop from that hour. I was much attracted to Keats, and he had a fellow-feeling for me. I was angry because he would not bend his great powers to some definite object, and always told him so. Latterly he grew irritated because I would shake my head at his irregularities, and tell him that he would destroy himself ... Poor Keats! had nature given you firmness as well as fineness of nerve, you would have been glorious in your maturity as great in your promise."58
Palgrave, many years later put his figure on this same point which Haydon had made. "Marvelous Boy": This is the title that Palgrave gave to John Keats.
"If the fulfillment may ever safely be prophesied from the promise, England appears to have lost in Keats one whose gifts in Poetry have rarely been surpassed. Shakespeare, Milton, and Wordsworth, had their lives been closed at twenty-five, would (so far as we know) have left poems of less excellence and hope than the youth who, from the petty school and the London surgery, passed at once to a place with them of 'high collateral glory.'"59
Keats was but a bud cut by a fatal frost. Richard Dowling60 thought that much the same thing could be said of Shelley who also at a young age was to die in Italy -- only 17 months later as a result of a boating accident. They "were never regular race-horses. They were colts that bolted in their first race and ran until they dropped." The poetry of John Keats, as a body of work was too green to ever be ranked with the best, however, in his work, especially that which was his last in 1818, one sees the brilliant flashes which will live on in the hearts on poetry lovers down through the ages.61

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Peter Landry
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2011