British poet, 1795-1821. Died at the age of 26. Considered one of the great six Romantic poets, who are William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Blake, and Keats himself. Usually, people place him and Wordsworth together as the top two of the group. His writing is considered to have matured remarkably quickly, especially for one so young. Tragically, tuberculosis claimed him in a house in Rome. Engraved on his gravestone is "Here lies one whose name was writ in water", a tribute to how worthless he thought his life was.

John Keats by Lord Byron
First Published: 1821

Who killed John Keats?
 'I,' says the Quarterly,
So savage and Tartarly;
 ''Twas one of my feats.'

Who shot the arrow?
 'The poet-priest Milman
(So ready to kill man),
 Or Southey or Barrow.'

John Keats (1795-1821) is generally regarded as one of the finest poets of the 19th century.

He was born on October 31, 1795 to a working class London family. He was the oldest of four surviving children, and his mother's favorite. In 1804, his father died in a tragic riding accident, and his mother remarried but two months later, to a man of some ill repute. Shortly thereafter she disappeared entirely from Keats' life, leaving her children in the care of her parents, and when she returned five years later, she was dying of tuberculosis. During this time Keats took upon himself the task of caring for her, when he was home from school, and became almost religious in his devotion to her, until she died a few months later. It is significant, therefore, that, when pressed to choose a profession shortly thereafter, he chose medicine.

Keats' became a surgeon's apprentice, to a Thomas Hammond, with whom he worked for about four years, before going to medical school, and then becoming licensed as an apothecary in 1816.

He began writing poetry around 1814, inspired by his reading of Edmund Spenser, who was to remain the biggest influence on his work for years to come. In fact, his earliest poem that survives is simply titled "Imitation of Spenser."

After finishing his stint in medical school, Keats seemed determined never to practice medicine again, if he could help it, and turned full force to poetry. In 1817, he published his first volume, which met with sour critical reviews and even worse popular success. His second published work, in 1818, Endymion, was a long verse narrative on the romance of the mortal Endymion with the goddess Cynthia. The public response to Endymion was even worse; so much so, in fact, that Percy Bysshe Shelley, in the introduction to his eulogy of Keats, "Adonais" claimed that his illness was in fact triggered by the harsh criticism of Endymion.

In 1818, after watching his brother Tom die of tuberculosis, he became involved with Fanny Brawne, who was to be the great love of his life. Meanwhile he was still working on Hyperion, another epic poem, this time about the fall of the Titans and birth of the Gods of Olympus. For most of 1818-1819, Hyperion was at the forefront of his work, and it was with this work that he planned to make a name for himself as one of the great English poets. Hyperion was never completed.

1819 saw a flurry of poetic activity, during which Keats wrote, over a nine month period, almost all of the poems which place him among the greats of English literature. "The Eve of St. Agnes," "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," and the five odes, "Ode to a Nightingale," "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "Ode on Melancholy," "Ode to Psyche," and "To Autumn."

During the winter of 1819-1820, Keats began coughing up blood—in those days, the first definite sign of tuberculosis. However, it is clear from his poetry and his letters that he was aware of the onset of the illness as early as 1818, and step by step he prescribed for himself precisely the regime that was then given to consumptives. Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems was published in 1820.

In the fall of 1820 Keats sailed to Italy to avoid the strain of another English winter. Although he good-naturedly accepted his friends' assurance that the warmer climate would soon set him to rights, he knew better. He left England, all of his friends and associates, and the woman he loved, knowing he would never see them again. He died on February 23, 1821 in Rome, and was buried in the Protestant cemetery there. To the very end he was convinced he had made no lasting contribution to poetry, and would not be remembered long after his death. Consequently, while on his deathbed, he asked that his tombstone bear no names or dates, just an image of a lyre with half its strings broken, and the words "Here lies one whose name was writ on water."

The poetry of John Keats:

Imitation of Spenser
On Peace
Linees Written on 29 May, the Anniversary of Charles's Restoration, on Hearing the Bells Ringing
Stay, ruby breasted warbler, stay
Fill for me a brimming bowl
As from the darkening gloom a silver dove
To Lord Byron
O Chatterton! how very sad thy fate
Written on the Day That Mr. Leigh Hunt Left Prison
To Hope
Ode to Apollo
To Some Ladies
On Receiving a Curious Shell, and a Copy of Verses, from the Same Ladies
O come, dearest Emma! the rose is full blown
Woman! when I behold thee flippant, vain
O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell
To George Felton Mathew
Had I a man's fair form, then might my sighs
Hadst thou liv'd in days of old
I am as brisk
Give me women, wine, and snuff
Specimen of an Introduction to a Poem
Calidore: A Fragment
To one who has been long in city pent
Oh! how I love, on a fair summer's eve
To a Friend who Sent Me Some Roses
Happy is England! I could be content
To My Brother George (sonnet)
To My Brother George (epistle)
To Charles Cowden Clarke
How many bards gild the lapses of time!
On First Looking into Chapman's Homer
Keen, fitful gusts are whisp'ring here and there
On Leaving Some Friends at an Early Hour
To My Brothers
Addressed to Haydon
Addressed to the Same
To G.A.W.
To Kosciusko
Sleep and Poetry
I stood tip-toe upon a little hill
Written in Disgust of Vulgar Superstition
On the Grasshopper and Cricket
After dark vapours have oppressed our plains
To a Young Lady Who Sent Me a Laurel Crown
On Receiving a Laurel Crown from Leigh Hunt
To the Ladies Who Saw Me Crown'd
God of the golden bow
This pleasant tale is like a little copse
To Leigh Hunt, Esq.
On Seeing the Elgin Marbles
To Haydon with a Sonnet Written on Seeing the Elgin Marbles
On a Leander Which Miss Reynolds, My Kind Friend, Gave Me
On The Story of Rimini
On the Sea
Unfelt, unheard, unseen
Hither, hither love
You say you love; but with a voice
Before he went to live with owls and bats
The Gothic looks solemn
O grant that like to Peter I
Think not of it, sweet one, so
Endymion: A Poetic Romance
In drear nighted December
Apollo to the Graces
To Mrs. Reynolds's Cat
Lines on Seeing a Lock of Milton's Hair
On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Lines on the Mermaid Tavern
O blush not so! O blush not so
Hence burgundy, claret, and port (A draught of sunshine)
God of the meridian (A draught of sunshine)
Robin Hood
Welcome joy, and welcome sorrow
Time's sea hath been five years at its slow ebb
To the Nile
Spenser, a jealous honorer of thine
Blue!--'Tis the life of heaven--the domain
O thou whose face hath felt the winter's wind
Extracts from an Opera
Four seasons fill the measure of the year
For there's Bishop's Teign
Where be ye going, you Devon maid
Over the hill and over the dale
Dear Reynolds, as last night I lay in bed
To J.R.
Isabella; or, The Pot of Basil
Mother of Hermes! and still youthful Maia
To Homer
Give me your patience, sister, while I frame
Sweet, sweet is the greeting of eyes
On Visiting the Tomb of Burns
Old Meg she was a gipsey
There was a naughty boy (Song of Myself)
Ah! ken ye what I met the day
To Ailsa Rock
This mortal body of a thousand days
All gentle folks who owe a grudge
Of late two dainties were before me plac'd
There is a joy in footing slow across a silent plain
Not Aladdin magian
Read me a lesson, Muse, and speak it loud
Upon my life, Sir Nevis, I am piqu'd
On Some Skulls in Beauley Abbey, near Inverness
Nature withheld Cassandra in the skies
Fragment of Castle-builder
And what is Love?--It is a doll dress'd up
'Tis the "witching time of night"
Where's the Poet? Show him! show him
Bards of passion and of mirth
Spirit here that reignest
I had a dove, and the sweet dove died
Hush, hush, tread softly, hush, hush, my dear
Ah! woe is me! poor Silver-wing
The Eve of St. Agnes
The Eve of St. Mark
Why did I laugh tonight? No voice will tell
When they were come unto the Faery's court
As Hermes once took to his feathers light
Character of C.B.
Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art
Hyperion: A Fragment
La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad
Song of Four Fairies: Fire, Air, Earth, and Water
Sonnet to Sleep
Ode to Psyche
On Fame ("Fame, like a wayward girl")
On Fame ("How fever'd is the man")
If by dull rhymes our English must be chain'd
Two or three posies
Ode to a Nightingale
Ode on a Grecian Urn
Ode on Melancholy
Ode on Indolence
Shed no tear--O shed no tear
Otho the Great: A Tragedy in Five Acts
Pensive they sit, and roll their languid eyes
To Autumn
The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream
The day is gone, and all its sweets are gone
I cry your mercy--pity--love!--aye, love!
What can I do to drive away
To Fanny
King Stephen: A Fragment of a Tragedy
This living hand, now warm and capable
The Jealousies: A Faery Tale, by Lucy Vaughan Lloyd of China Walk, Lambeth
In after time a sage of mickle lore

For posthumous poems, in which there may be some discrepancy as to the title, I have referred to John Keats: Complete Poems, ed Jack Stillinger, who most often uses the first line convention. Any alternate titles I know of (you can /msg me if you have more) will be included parenthetically. The order of the list also comes from Stillinger, and is mostly chronological. The poems themselves have not all been posted, but I'm working on it. If you find any that are noded under a different title (and thus the link here doesn't work) please let me know and I will correct it.

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