John Keats as Romantic Poet: Tracing its roots to the philosophic endeavours of Jean Jacques Rousseau that “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”, Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement. With the publication of “Lyrical Ballads” in 1798, it sprang in English literature and reached its climax by 1850. It was a revolt against the industrial revolution and excessive mechanisation. It stressed upon strong emotions and influenced visual arts, music and literature.
German painter Caspar David Friedrich stated “the artist’s feeling is his law” while Coleridge pronounced “Poetry is the lava of imagination”. In short “creation from nothingness”, is the voice of Romanticism. Among great romantic poets are Coleridge, Shelley, John Keats, Byron and Wordsworth. Romantic poetry is famous for the interest of the poet in Nature and pastoral life while it involves imagination, excessive emotions, spontaneity, symbolism, antiquity and escape from reality.
John Keats, a passionate romantic, once wrote “if poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree it had better not come at all”. Like all romantics poets, the poetry of Keats is enriched with keen interest in beauty and Nature with impeccable sensual imagery. He is Hellenistic and escapist. In addition to his obsession with beauty, he speculates over death while love, valor, adventure and pathos have been his major topics with a “Negative Capability”.
Keats was overwhelmingly influenced by ancient mythology. Though romantic in essence, Keats had deep interests in the writings of Homer, Dante, Virgil, and Shakespeare etc. Nature, with all its beauty and enrapturing charms, is always there as a perfect setting for the poems of Keats whether he is speculative and depressed over imminent death or he be lost in the beauty of ancient art or enchanting like a bird at night.
John Keats is a passionate romantic who presents all his themes on the canvas of nature. All his poems are a sheer depiction of the colours and beauty of Nature. The style of Keats has nothing but passion to capture the beauty of Nature. If he is anxious to capture “Night’s starred face” in “when I Have Fears”, then In “Ode To Autumn”, the description of nature is quite realistic and alluring. Though the overall mood of the poem is filled with the gloom of the lurking danger of the imminent winter, yet the sparkling rays of the colours of autumn brighten the horizon for the readers:
“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;”
In September, 1819, Keats wrote a letter to Reynolds from Winchester describing the beauty of the fields and his intention of writing a poem on the beautiful landscape. He says “how beautiful the season is now…”.