3 28 If ye will take that comfort in its truth. Keats wrote images of unparalleled beauty and lines that are some of the most famous in poetry. . Biography• John Keats was one of the finest English poets of the Romantic school of writing. .” (125-126). Seneca admonished his followers not to remain a “subaltern” to other thinkers, but to “Take command and say things that will be handed down to posterity” (186). “How astonishingly does the chance of leaving the world impress a sense of its natural beauties upon me” (461). . C.W. Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. 17 Ibid, 224. ‎John Keats remains one of the most familiar and beloved of English poets, but has received surprisingly little critical attention in recent years. Then, in a long letter to his brother George and sister-in-law dated as having been started on February 14, 1819, Keats gave a sustained discussion on the purpose of adversity. the heart. He gives neither any message nor does advise to his readers. to bear all naked truths, / And to envisage circumstance, all calm, / That is the top of sovereignty. They will heal your wound, they will eradicate your sadness” (131). John Keats was an English poet who belonged to the period of Romanticism in English literature- dedicated himself to the perfection of poetry. The Stoics were not ascetics, like the mendicant and homeless Cynics, but Seneca preached against self indulgence in lifestyle. Keats’s attending physician in Rome, and Joseph Severn, his devoted friend and nurse in Rome, encouraged it, certain that Keats was deprived and worsened by a failure to embrace religion.18 Also, the similarities in philosophical thought between Keats and Seneca actually exceed what I have treated in this paper, both in the degree of detail on each topic and in number of topics. Cylmene, who speaks next, and who is pointedly non-Stoic, is depicted in unflattering tones. Keats described that the inability to write caused him actual pain (243). Keats stated at one point that he was going to control his passions (i.e. However, in the end, circumstances cast him back into her orbit and he was powerless to reason himself out of her gravitational pull. From then until his early death, the story of his life is largely the story of the poetry he wrote. In his poetry, Keats makes a more overt statement in favor of tranquility, as he addressed the control of emotions at both extremes. As for any direct influence on Keats, even though he did read Latin fluently, there is no evidence that he read any Stoic writers. There is symmetry between the manner in which Keats lived and what Seneca described as a Stoic lifestyle. . life. . . He wrote in a letter after his failure with the critics and the public: “No external praise can give me such a glow as my own solitary perception and ratification of what is fine” (207). Emily Brontё called imagination the “world within,” and similarly, Keats stated, “I feel more and more every day, as my imagination strengthens, that I do not live in this world alone but in a thousand worlds” (225). ... "Axioms in philosophy" he says, using an image that refers back to his medical days, "are not axioms unless they are proved upon our pulses". William Irvine in A Guide to the Good Life (2009) has described the influence of Socrates on Stoicism: “It is as if Socrates, on his death, had fissioned into Plato and Antisthenes, with Plato inheriting Socrates’ interest in theory and Antisthenes inheriting his concern with living a good life. Although Keats’s advice might seem commonsensical to some, the notion of fixing ones thoughts on whatever of value remains centers Stoic thought. He felt he had to “smother his spirit” in society (243) He swore off congregating “with literary men”; his one-time admiration for Wordsworth as a person was diminished by his acquaintance with him, and he became very critical of his one-time close associate, Leigh Hunt. (part III, lines 2-10) Written by poet Archibald MacLeish and narrated by actor James Mason, this 1973 film dramatizes the life of John Keats from his early years in England until his death at age 26. There is the issue of whether it is the poet (a persona), Keats, or the urn speaking. (89). Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. “ ‘. And in the proof much comfort will I give, .” (139). . Keats, like the Stoics, developed a practical philosophy; however, he did of course expound on art and poetry, creating an aesthetic philosophy notable for his ideas on the relation of beauty and truth, on the chameleon poet, and on negative capability. Each succeeding generation will hold them in ever higher reverence . The hymn to Apollo continues for several more lines to its crescendo, as the poet rejoices with his Muse that “Apollo is once more the golden theme!” (Book III, line 28). Much of his lifestyle might follow from a lack of funds; however, Keats could have done better “I account you unfortunate because you have never been, unfortunate. Circumstances are like clouds continually gathering and bursting. John Keats devoted his short life to the perfection of poetry marked by vivid imagery, great sensuous appeal and an attempt to express a philosophy through classical legend. Mark well!’ ” Hyperion, Three months before John Keats died in Rome, he wrote his valedictory letter. Therefore, by unstated contrast, the Stoic individual who keeps to a moderate course, who does not indulge the excess of joy, is spared the sorrow and can live in tranquility. .” 11 At the heart of Stoicism was the search for tranquility, a consistent state of mind, free of excitement or depression (79-80). His soul shall taste the sadness of her might, there is nothing that the lapse of time does not dilapidate and exterminate. Attempting to cut a fine figure in society and to foster self-serving agendas routed disinterestedness, and Keats considered Wordsworth, lamentably, to have engaged in those practices. . After the breakup of their mother’s second marriage, the Keats children lived with their widowed grandmother at Edmonton, Middlesex. In his poetry, Keats makes a more overt statement in favor of tranquility, as he addressed the control of emotions at both extremes. Neither Keats nor Seneca gave any credence to suffering as punishment or as the basis for the compensations of a heavenly afterlife. . . But the dedications of philosophy are impregnable; age cannot erase their memory or diminish their force. John Keats’ philosophy of art can be briefly summed up as: art is that which life is not. At school Keats was noted as a pugnacious lad and was decidedly “not literary,” but in 1809 he began to read voraciously. “We pass now to property, the greatest source of affliction to humanity. 10 Seneca, The Stoic of Philosophy of Seneca, ed. 16 The Keats Circle, 203. . . Bidding adieu; and aching pleasure nigh, . Later in the poem, with the appearance of Apollo, Keats makes a case for the beneficial power of knowledge. .” 11 At the heart of Stoicism was the search for tranquility, a consistent state of mind, free of excitement or depression (79-80). 10 ” (54). He addressed his closest friend, Charles Brown, describing the toll consumption had taken and preparing Brown for news of his death: “There, you rogue, I put you to the torture; but you must bring your philosophy to bear . Instead, their common theme was the usefulness of adversity to achieve self-knowledge and to form a person: more particularly, for Keats to form a soul, for Seneca to fashion a stalwart individual. The next Titan to speak, Enceladus, as non-Stoic in his own way as Cylmene, indulges emotion, inciting an impossible revenge: 17 Ibid, 224. .”(88-9). ( Log Out /  .” (176). Also, without reason there was no path toward a happy life, since, as discussed above, reason explained adversity and made control of the emotions possible (239). disdained the mean-spiritedness and vanity that he was prone to encounter while socializing. 17 Yet listen, ye who will, whilst I bring proof . He borrowed books from friends and from libraries, set himself a course of study, and stated that he was going to ask William Hazlitt’s advice on Keats encouraged them to think upon what could be counted as valuable and consoling: “I have Fanny [his sister] and I have you—three people whose happiness to me is sacred–and it does annul that selfish sorrow . 19 The Keats Circle. It surprises me somewhat that Astronomy didn't play a bigger role in the philosophy of the great poets. Despite Stoicism’s general lack of interest in aesthetics and its concern for reigning in emotion, Seneca allowed a passionate and immoderate mindset for writing: he referred to the statements of Plato and Aristotle and their views on the mixture of madness and genius typical to great poetic creativity, then articulated his own belief: “ . but too short was their bliss / To breed distrust and hate, that make the soft voice hiss” (Part II, lines 10-11). For Seneca, lust was one of the top two excesses that reason should overcome (54). In addition to statements in letters, Keats’s poetry provides his views on death, since contemplations of death are typical to that genre, and thereby further reveals an accord with Seneca’s idea of death as an escape. ... "Axioms in philosophy" he says, using an image that refers back to his medical days, "are not axioms unless they are proved upon our pulses". Seneca did not address conjugal love; presumably he did not consider it conducive to excessive passion. The last prevails, although far closer to coincidence than influence. As for joy and its excesses, Keats seemed to embrace the Stoic admonition against indulging pleasure in the pursuit of joy. 13 Emily Jane Brontё, “How Clear She Shines,” in The Complete Poems of Emily Jane Brontё, ed. The shortcoming of Wordsworth described by the quote was his lack of disinterestedness. It might appear that the poem disparages philosophy and that Apollonius plays the villain. Thus, given the natural origin of hardship and its inescapability, the question for philosophy was how to reconcile oneself to it. I am never alone without rejoicing that there is such a thing as death. Many scholars believe that during the years of 1818 through 1819, Keats was attempting to develop a comprehensive philosophical system.”4 In a letter written during that period, Keats declared that, although he was only “straining at particles of light in the midst of a great darkness” (304), he deserved credit for working toward knowing himself, and he supported the value of philosophical endeavors by quoting John Milton: “ ‘How charming is divine Philosophy, / Not harsh and crabbed, as dull fools suppose, / But musical as is Apollo’s lute’ ” (304-5). He did, despite his philosophy, fall into periods of depression: yet, perhaps his philosophy helped him to climb out. First, in keeping with the non-hedonistic precepts of the Stoics, Keats disavowed joy as a goal in his letters. His spirit quickly begins to rise from its funk as knowledge pours into his head, and he exclaims: “Knowledge enormous makes a god of me” (line 113). English Romantic poet John Keats is counted amongst the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. The trope of capture mimics Seneca’s view that the joys of pleasure have the power to enslave. Stifling that puny essence in his tent.’ ” 2 . I scarcely remember counting upon any happiness–I look not for it if it not be in not in the present hour . . . Seneca too acknowledged that reason had a particularly tough time in cases of grief. Thus, given the natural origin of hardship and its inescapability, the question for philosophy was how to reconcile oneself to it. In his letters Keats does not pronounce tranquility his goal, per se, yet it can be reasonably inferred that tranquility was his philosophical end. The road lies through application, study, and thought. Also, a study of Keats as a Platonist must focus on his poetics, not on a method for living because Plato was a dialectician and theorist; certainly Keats was not suggesting to Brown that he deal with grief by remembering Platonic ideas. Thursday, November 5, 2020. Please select which sections you would like to print: Corrections? On the second criterion of a philosopher, Seneca encouraged his acolytes to ponder philosophical matters as the summum bonum: “. . . 11 Irvine, The Guide to the Good Life, 34-5. Whether in early 19th century England or ancient Rome, it would not take much thought, philosophical or otherwise, to conclude that suffering and sorrow accounted for a large measure of existence and that death was ever close at hand. Seneca would not have disputed the natural and constant nature of hardship, but attributed its origin to gods. Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips: The trope of capture mimics Seneca’s view that the joys of pleasure have the power to enslave. (Book II, lines 249-50) and embarks on a self-indulgent ramble on her intense grief and confused joy that carries no weight with her listeners. He also gushed praise at the simplicity of Scipio’s dwelling, particularly his simple bath, which was at odds with the trend of great luxury in baths. He professed to confront bad news without excessive emotion: “The first thing that strikes me on hearing a misfortune having befallen another in this–‘Well, it cannot be helped: he will have the pleasure of trying the resources of his Spirit’ ” (54). . After he determines to marry her, he queries: “Sure some sweet name thou hast, though, On all those points, Keats not only tracked Stoic footprints in his letter writing and daily life, but also enshrined Stoic thought in verse worthy for Seneca to quote, along with Vergil, to preface his essays. Particularly in his tormented final days, Keats might have succumbed to its influence, given that Dr. Clark, Keats’s attending physician in Rome, and Joseph Severn, his devoted friend and nurse in Rome, encouraged it, certain that Keats was deprived and worsened by a failure to embrace religion.18 Also, the similarities in philosophical thought between Keats and Seneca actually exceed what I have treated in this paper, both in the degree of detail on each topic and in number of topics. Philosophy will clip an angel's wings. The philosophy of Stoicism also concerned itself with a way to confront life, as distinguished from metaphysics. John Keats’s father, a livery-stable manager, died when he was eight, and his mother remarried almost immediately. . In demonstrating that Keats developed a Stoic philosophy, I must propose that he was influenced by Stoic thought, arrived at Stoic ideas coincidentally, or that he fell somewhere on the scale between the two possibilities. 23 ” (54). .” (84). Looking first at Seneca, he wrote: “What is death? . . By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. Many have original minds who do not think it—they are led away by Custom. Despite Stoicism’s general lack of interest in aesthetics and its concern for reigning in emotion, Seneca allowed a passionate and immoderate mindset for writing: he referred to the statements of Plato and Aristotle and their views on the mixture of madness and genius typical to great poetic creativity, then articulated his own belief: “ . I do not fear ceasing to be, for it is the same as not having begun to be, nor am I afraid of transition, for no alternative state can be so limiting” (201). It so happens that our representative Stoic, Seneca, also veered off the path of practical philosophy to address the nature of a writer, perhaps because he was also a playwright. in any case only a mind that is excited is capable of great and transcendant utterance. books to read; Hazlitt was a “philosopher” and an acolyte of Montaigne, who had borrowed many Stoic concepts. But there were family troubles. In … His maternal grandparents, John and Alice Jennings, were well-off and, upon his parents’ marriage, had entrusted the management of their livery business to Thomas. (17) which affected him to the point he felt unable to write, which only compounded his misery: “I am so depressed that I have not an idea to put to paper . He sees himself as, at present, plunged in the delighted contemplation of sensuous natural beauty but realizes that he must leave this for an understanding of “the agony and strife of human hearts.” Otherwise the volume is remarkable only for some delicate natural observation and some obvious Spenserian influences. Nature Fire New. On that point, Keats would have nodded in complete agreement. . His letters reveal that a philosopher exhibited two necessary attributes: outwardly he was disinterested and inwardly he delved into the mysteries of life. . Although Keats is known for having several faithful friends, upon whom he greatly depended, there is a distinction between friendship and socializing. The similarity is not surprising, given that in a few lines above he had remarked how “the ‘Paradise Lost’ becomes a greater wonder.” We see, then, Keats contemplated the reason for adversity and arrived at his own understanding of its origin and usefulness; having done so, he laid the basis for seeking the shelter of tranquility from the storm clouds that he described as ever-forming. Seneca exhorted his acolytes to live as follows: “We must learn to strengthen self-restraint, curb luxury, temper ambition, moderate anger, view poverty calmly, cultivate frugality. 15 Hadas, “Introduction” to “On Providence” in The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca, 27. It is neither for the sake of criticism nor to apprise the people of any society. melodramatic scenery has fascinated them” (303). Moses Hadas has described the difference: “Its program was at all times more important than the scaffolding of logic and physics erected to support it . The relation with Fanny had a decisive effect on Keats’s development. Moses Hadas (New York: W.W. Norton 1958), 84. While we are laughing, the seed of some trouble is put into the wide arable land of events—while we are laughing it sprouts, it grows, and suddenly bears a poison fruit which we must pluck” (302-3). Unfortunately, although the theoretical side of philosophy flourished, the practical side his withered away” (20). . 202. Keats yearned to devote himself to study and extolled knowledge: “Every department we see of Knowledge is excellent and calculated towards a great whole . suffered from the deterioration of his lungs and stomach and his extreme mental anguish in awful detail and then concluded: “. to 165 A.D., encouraged his acolytes to work for the good of the country, then, if forced out of civic duty or prevented by circumstance from participating in the community, to pursue teaching, writing or philosophy—all valuable for the world as much as for oneself. . . Keats, not long after his arrival to the destination of his death, the apartment at the bottom of the Spanish Steps in Rome, found the strength to write a letter and affirm his philosophy. The road lies through application, study, and thought. Indeed, it would be hard to construct a situation more ruled by the heart to the utter exclusion of reason than that of Lycius. Keats yearned to devote himself to study and extolled knowledge: “Every department we see of Knowledge is excellent and calculated towards a great whole . The images, as well as the tone of the poem conveyed through the solemn words “veiled,” “sadness” and “cloudy” in no way support the jubilant idea that the joyful moment was worth it after all. . The shortcoming of Wordsworth described by the quote was his lack of disinterestedness. Both his uncertain material situation and his failing health in any case made it impossible for their relationship to run a normal course. In his letters Keats does not pronounce tranquility his goal, per se, yet it can be reasonably inferred that tranquility was his philosophical end. if Wordsworth had thought a little deeper at that moment, he would not have written the poem at all. As for Zen Buddhism, there is an overlap in small ways between that and Stoicism, but Zen elements, if any, in certain poems do not connect Keats, personally or philosophically, to that system of belief. References to Keats’s letters are to this edition and are hereafter cited parenthetically by page number. Therefore, by unstated contrast, the Stoic individual who keeps to a moderate course, who does not indulge the excess of joy, is spared the sorrow and can live in tranquility. . He avoided seeing Fanny Brawne for several months because his passion was too disturbing to his peace of mind and ability to write (378). . . In considering indirect influences, Hellenistic and Roman philosophical ideas could have reached Keats through various writers. He devoted a letter to considering the benefits of suicide under varying circumstances (202-7). The gods were all powerful, yet nowhere does Seneca suggest placating them or supplicating for a change anymore than Keats would have left offerings to nature for a mitigation of his illness. Keats himself recognized that his philosophical musings were fed by myriad and preexisting streams of thought: “I have often pitied a tutor who has to .” (54). Sapience : the philosophy of John Keats : an epistemological and mythological speculation on his He proclaimed in a letter well before he fell ill with consumption, “. He had few possessions and no established home; his only desire with respect to his lodging was quiet and proximity to a library. His many apothegms on the utility of adversity in the essay coincide with Keats’s ideas. failed. 25 His aesthetics overlap his practical philosophy because Keats believed that poetry could alleviate suffering and that writing it consoled him: “Life must be undergone, and I certainly derive some consolation from the thought of writing one or two more poems before it ceases. Professor of English, University of Cambridge, 1966–75; Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge, 1964–75. He stated that he knew little of joy, even though that letter predated two of his greatest sorrows, the death of one brother and the departure of the other to America: “. In the poem, nature pours forth glorious beauties to herald Apollo, “the Father of all verse” (Book III, line 13): “Flush every thing that hath a vermeil hue, / Let rose glow intense and warm the air, / And let the clouds of even and of morn Float in voluptuous fleeces o’er the hills” (Book III, lines 13-17). Despite the reservations expressed in the above-quoted letter, Keats gets closer to Seneca’s faith in knowledge when he depicts the power of knowledge in Hyperion. Keats’ verse letter to his brother (1816) contains many of his beliefs about his vocation as a poet, in particular what it would mean for him to ‘strive to think divinely’, to have a poet’s imaginative vision whilst at the same time absorbing the sights and sounds of the natural world. 3 Rome. the heart. He could have pursued his profession as a surgeon; he had an inheritance and would have had more if he had been more active in his financial affairs; and he loaned money to friends that he needed for himself, and then borrowed from his publishers to meet harassing duns. to 165 A.D., encouraged his acolytes to work for the good of the country, then, if forced out of civic duty or prevented by circumstance from participating in the community, to pursue teaching, writing or philosophy—all valuable for the world as much as for oneself. exercise reason over feelings) towards women in referring to his sexual trysts in Oxford, and it seems in fact he did. exercise reason over feelings) towards women in referring to his sexual trysts in Oxford, and it seems in fact he did. His parents had been wed for barely a year when John was born. ( Log Out /  Seneca advised: “If, then, you bestow the time you abstract from public business upon study, you will not be deserting or shirking your duty.”10 I rely throughout this paper on Seneca as the representative of Roman Stoicism because his essays and letters offer the most developed, comprehensive, and accessible Stoic information. (part III, lines 2-10) 4 Robert Gittings, John Keats: the Living Year (Harvard University Press, 1954), 4. think of my Pleasure in solitude in comparison of my commerce with the world. For Keats, a great poem required discomfort. 19 For example, he unreservedly offered to his mother the benefit of knowledge as the answer to grief: “And so I would lead you to the sure refuge of all who fly from Fortune–to liberal studies. “. That interpretation could come from the usual bias toward romance, but it is also supported by the point of view in which the poem is told: the reader experiences the early parts of the poem through Lamia’s perspective, and thereby develops an affinity for her. Written by Stephanie. . John Keats was born in London on 31 October 1795, the eldest of Thomas and Frances Jennings Keats’s four children. The poet, he believed, fleeing from the painful realities of life, takes refuge in a dream world of enchanting beauty and unalloyed bliss. Home; Authors/Philosophers; Conflicts; Enlightenment; Transcendentalism; Works Cited; John Keats Previous Next. Keats’s thoughts in that statement echo Seneca’s idea that those who never create but only interpret “exercise their memories on what is not their own. He broke off the apprenticeship in 1814 and went to London, where he worked as a dresser, or junior house surgeon, at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ hospitals. Just as Keats allowed it his one indulgence, so Seneca made his exception from moderation the occasional indulgence of wine to lift the spirits (105). Quotes & Sayings; Quotes by Topics; People Quotes; Time Quotes; No Result Lycius is a lover and as such is ruled by emotion. Keats also stated in his letters that, when immersed in writing, he was in a sort. After he advised Brown to bring his philosophy to bear, he added, “. Keats certainly burned the fuel of his inner resources, and turning inward to his own mind was a philosophical approach that matched his creative proclivity. Even though Keats died at the young age of 25, it was not before he had created a significant amount of literary output that earned him acclaim for long after his death. How to feed fierce the crooked stings of fire, 12 John Keats, The Complete Poems of John Keats (New York: the Modern Library, 1994). with a few points to tip with the fine Web of his Soul. 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