Ode To Fanny

One of the most appealing and gifted English poets in the nineteenth century Keats was a seminal figure of the romantic movement. At the age of 15 he was apprenticed to a surgeon studying medicine from 1814 to 1816 in the hospitals of London, became licensed in 1816 as an apothecary but decided to become a poet, never practising his profession.

This poem is from The Poetical Works of John Keats: Oxford Standard Authors Edition published in 1908. In the first stanza Keats is calling on nature to relieve his distress by allowing his excess of spirit to flow out as verse and the first line refers to the art of blood letting a common practice in medicine of the day. Sometimes it was done with leeches or by opening a vein, and the process was called "letting blood".

The rest of the poem is a fanciful description of the turbulent relationship he had with a young woman by the name of Fanny Brawne (1801-1865) with whom he had fallen passionately in love. Rich in imagery and phrasing it depicts their passionate attachment as one that was marked by mutual cruelties, temper tantrums, and jealousy. Many of Keats's poems are based on his love and difficulties with Fanny. In 1820 Keats became ill with tuberculosis and perhaps the illness was aggravated by the emotional strain of his devotion. The most revealing lines are in the sixth stanza: keep me free/From torturing jealousy, for this is a passion that greatly afflicted Keats in his short life. Nevertheless, the period between 1818 and 1820 was one of great creativity for the poet. Keats's wrote many letters to Fanny that she kept even after his death and her subsequent marriage. Keats's letters to Fanny are difficult to read not because they show Keats in a bad light, although they do, but because we know things are not going to work out right. She handed them down to her children, which leads into another poem by Oscar Wilde in this story found here. In the fall of 1820 Keats went to the warmer climes of Rome under his physician's orders where he died on February 23, 1821.


Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, "Keats,John," Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.

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