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Let the Winged Fancy Roam...

Keats wants you to stop existing and live.


At times, it is very difficult to appreciate life and all its possibilities because, let’s face it, it can be hard. Often our old enemy "time" gets in the way and we suddenly realise we are years older and no happier. However, the poetry of John Keats reminds us to always treat our moments, however small they are, with the highest quality.

Nineteenth-century critics viewed Keats’ poetry as unworldly and unreal, interpreting much of his work as an unobtainable ideal of the world in a desperate attempt to distance himself from harsh and repressive social conditions. His contemporaries, such as Wordsworth, Byron, and Shelley were seen to be far more concerned with "great causes"; much of their work placed great emphasis on liberty and religion compared to Keats, who many believed lived in a mythological fairyland, therefore his work represents the life of the dreamer. By constantly weaving symbolic language into his poetic work, Keats epitomised the sentiment that art should be beautiful, "truth beauty, beauty truth."

Throughout his work and particularly his "Odes" Keats focusses on the progression of life and the inevitability of death. The acceptance of which is crucial to fully discover the beauty around us, not just through nature but intense passion of emotion. We should never stop searching to feel things in the highest degree.

Keats developed the idea of "Negative Capability," by which he meant when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable yearning for facts and reason. He believed it acceptable to be in a state of unknown and that it did not render any effect on his poetry if the reader took nothing but enjoyment from it. Negative capability outlines the author's receptiveness to the world and its natural marvels. As beauty that is perceived is not only a presentation of the joy of art but a source of something good and a consolation of an often-harsh world. Beauty imagined is far greater than beauty perceived therefore his role as the creator of beautiful things is to lead the reader into the area of their own mind where said perceived beauty lies. 

Keats is not a teacher imposing his own perception of beauty upon the reader. Poetry should communicate an ineffable knowledge through sheer expression, to convey an experience not a meaning. And so too should life, we fall into the trap of constantly searching for the reason why we live and act and think in a certain way. Forever justifying our decisions and beliefs, but instead we should follow in the wake of Keats who accepted the simplistic beauty of an Autumn day. His words, representing life and accepting death as an aspect of it, search not for the meaning but for the simple beauty in everything. He held the firm belief that "A thing of beauty is a joy forever," and with this philosophy in mind, he led a hopeless life wildly, loved fiercely, and held an intense passion for the useless beauty of life, before his untimely and sad death. 

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