Consider how Keats treats the question "What is poetry?"
The poems we will be reading this week all derives from Keats very early
period, and they address in some way the question of what poetry is. We
can imagine that this was a creative and philosophical question that
concerned the young poet.
Take the opportunity to apply the principles learned from Perrine and
Oliver to your reading of Keats' work, but also see these poems as
the beginning work of a developing poet. All of the poems for this
class were written before what most critics see as Keats'
significant accomplishment in poetry. In our class we
will be following the development of this artist and paying
particular attention to his practice of poetic craft.
Keats' Early Poems
Familiarize yourself with Keats' biography in some way. The more ambitious
among you will want to read a full-length biography, the classic one being
John Keats, by Walter Jackson Bate. There is ample material
available on the web and
The Romantic Chronology Page may
be a good place to start for historical context.
For each of Keats' poems, analyze the use of sound. Make observations
on the form (is it a sonnet? what line length? what rhyme scheme?).
For at least one poem, scan the entire poem, marking meter, caesura,
Also for each poem, make sure you read the notes that are
printed in the back of the book. These will provide valuable
information about biographical and literary details.
Suggestions for reading poetry: read all the way through one
time to get a sense of what the poem is about. Read the second
time scanning the notes for information and trying to understand
the complexity of the piece. Read a third time out loud to hear
the rhythms and rhymes, etc. Read as many more times as you
like or need to. POETRY NEEDS TO BE READ MORE THAN ONE TIME.
"Sleep and Poetry" p. 82
What is the significance of the title of this poem ?
How is sleep described here? What is the relationship between
sleep and poetry?
What happens to the discussion of sleep at the end of the poem?
"In the far more important "Sleep and Poetry,"
this bold experimenter who was to try so many styles
successfully, began once more to go over the same ground
as in the three verse letters. In a sense he was to
retread that ground until the end. But beca
use the concern was primary and universal, the return
to it proved increasingly valuable. That concern was
nothing less than the use of poetry itself -- and it
was a concern that could easily paralyze endeavor and
confidence. It was precisely this large
, high-minded absorption in the past monuments of
literature that was to inhibit Matthew Arnold and so
many that followed Arnold. Yet Keats's poetic treatment
offers no greater interest than in the remarkable success
with which he by-passes these inhibit
ions by constantly reverting to basic premises and generous
ideals" (Bate, p. 124).
Consider Bates' statement. Where can you find Keats
reverting to basic premises and generous ideals? In
what way? What premises? What ideals?
Read closely lines 230-269: Discuss what Keats is
doing in these lines. What does he envision poetry
to be? What are the two main functions of poetry described?
What does it mean for poetry to be a power? What
does it mean for poetry to be a friend to man? How is
this related to Keats' literary friendships?
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