The Mind of John Keats

The Mind of John Keats

The Mind of John Keats

The Mind of John Keats

Excerpt

This book is the outgrowth of an attempt to analyze the poetic mind of Keats. About ten years ago, I began a study of the development of Keats as a poet, with special reference to his growth in self restraint. I had not proceeded far before I became convinced that the key to the young poet's remarkable advance in power during the brief span of his working years could be traced largely to a natural reaction to his own serious thought on the nature of art and poetry. Accordingly, I set to work to gather together from his letters and poems all possible evidence as to what these ideas were. The total mass of this material, a few lines of poetry here, a passage from a letter there, a bit from one of his critical comments in another place, was truly astonishing. Not less revelatory was the pertinence and the import of these utterances. There began to dawn upon me a feeling that here was an aesthetic thinker of significance. And as I came to analyze and organize, this feeling ripened into a conviction.

My first objective was to discover an adequate interpretation for the famous lines from the Ode on a Grecian Urn which identify truth and beauty. I had often read the passage, had often heard it explained, but I must confess I had never been able to reach a satisfying conclusion. Much has been written and many things said to illuminate Keats's meaning here; however, it seems to me these lines have never been, up to this time, satisfactorily explained. And one reason is, I feel convinced, that they have never been regarded in the light of Keats's complete aesthetic theory. In my own interpretation of them, I have found it necessary to take into account all of the poet's ideas of his art, to which these lines are both the key and culmination. Consequently, my study began and ended with that significant utterance --

"'Beauty is truth, truth beauty'-- that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. . . ."

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