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Irreverent Criticism of John Keats
|by Dr. Santosh Kumar|
John Keats (1795-1821), one of the greatest Romantic poets who is often compared with Shakespeare due to his phrases charged with a great intensity of imagination, was vehemently criticized by John Gibson Lockhart in Blackwoods Magazine:
“The phrenzy of the "Poems" was bad enough in its way; but it did not alarm us half so seriously as the calm, settled, imperturbable drivelling idiocy of Endymion.”
This vituperative and utterly irreverent criticism was quite unjustified. We should not forget that Keats wrote some of the greatest odes, comparable to nothing except Shakespeare’s greatest poetry . One example is the concluding lines of Ode on a Grecian Urn" 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty' - that is all / you know on earth, and all ye need to know". Keats is a Shakespearean poet due to his 'negative capability'. Keats himself remarks about this 'negativecapability':
"Several things dovetailed in my mind, and at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature and which Shakespeare posessed so enormously—I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason."
The following lines by Keats leave no doubt that he submitted himself steadily, persistently, unflinchingly to life:
The fact is that Keats was more interested in sensations than ideas. he is one of the rare poets who makes us realize the oneness of Beauty and Truth. For him, the sense of Beauty overcame any other consideration.
According to several critics, this condemnation of his poetry pained the poet so much that he died. We may always remember that the soul of Keats was made of iron and flint. An abusive article can never be the cause of the death of a powerful poet like Keats. Byron’s comment that Keats “ was snuffed out of an article” is far from truth.
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