The Biggest Influences on the Work of John Keats was an English romantic poet who was reportedly born in London on the 31st of October 31, 1795 (Poets.org, n.d.). His early life was described as tumultuous due to the series of challenges that besieged members of his family. The early demise of his father, Thomas, due to an accident while riding on a horse, was noted to be the first of the succession of losses and dislocations that influenced Keats’s life and work (Poetry Foundation, 2014). Likewise, being orphaned at such a young age, with three siblings to protect, John was noted to have endured considerable difficulties to overcome poverty, loneliness, as well as a struggle to support and survive. As emphasized, these adversities allegedly contributed “to his mature sense that the career of the artist was an exploration of art power to bring solace and meaning to human suffering” (Poetry Foundation, 2014, par. 5). The current discourse hereby contends that the biggest influences on the work of John Keats include personal experiences on loneliness, love, and illness.
The biography of John Keats revealed that the poet wrote his famous odes, with thoughts of longing for his brothers. One of his brothers, Tom, reportedly died of tuberculosis; while George, another brother, departed to America (Stanford University, 2011). The works were described to have been strongly influenced by emotions ranging from loneliness, longing, and despair, to wit: “The poems known as the Great Odes—“Ode to a Nightingale,” “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode to Melancholy,” “To Autumn,” and so on, written in the spring of 1819, after Tom’s death and George’s departure—describe the misery into which the poet had plunged after the loss of his brothers: “George is in America and I have no brother left,” John wrote to an acquaintance that May” (Stanford University, 2011, p. 1). Likewise, the themes in some of these odes have been influenced by the poet’s adeptness to focus on humanities and the arts as a means of dissociating himself to feelings of isolation. As noted, “if the “Ode to a Nightingale” portrays Keats’s speaker’s engagement with the fluid expressiveness of music, the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” portrays his attempt to engage with the static immobility of sculpture” (SparkNotes LLC: Themes, 2014, par. 1).
The influence of romance or love was also noted to be present in some of Keats’ works. As love had been a strong emotional force that provided the impetus and inspiration for other literary artists, John Keats’ romantic experiences shared a similar influence. Accordingly, one influential person in Keats’ life was Isabella Jones (Poem Hunter, 2014). As emphasized in various works, “he “frequented her rooms” in the winter of 1818–19, and in his letters to George says that he “warmed with her” and “kissed her”. It is unclear how close they were, but Bate and Gittings suggest the trysts may represent a sexual initiation for Keats. Jones’s greatest significance may be as an inspiration and steward of Keats’s writing” (Poem Hunter: Isabella Jones, 2014, par. 1). Concurrently, another publicized love interest, who John reportedly intended to marry was Fanny Brawne (The Life of John Keats, 2004). Thereby, prominent portions of his life focused on his love interest for Fanny, of which he reportedly wrote “the famous Bright star! would I be steadfast as thou art? Most of these works dwell upon her physical charms, but they also celebrate the enjoyment and abandon he found in her company” (The Life of John Keats, 2004, p. 1). The profound impact of Fanny Brawne was reported to have contributed to John’s writing of one of the best works, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, which was described, as follows: “The story of an enchantress and the knight she lures to his doom, it is an evocative and beautiful work, justly celebrated” (The Life of John Keats, 2004, p. 1).
Finally, John Keats’ life was reportedly besieged with illnesses: from the alleged contraction of venereal disease to bouts of tuberculosis and hysterical illness (The Life of John Keats, 2004). In one of the poet’s musings, he was noted to have written:
“If my health would bear it, I could write a poem which I have in my head, which would be a consolation for people in such a situation as mine. I would show someone in Love as I am, with a person living in such Liberty as you do” (The Life of John Keats, 2004, p. 1).
From the written discourse, it was evident that Keats’ health afflictions and the experiences of loved ones who died of the dreaded disease; in conjunction with his love for Brawne continue to be used as subjects of his work. His biography noted that even during his final month, Brawne had been significantly present in his life as a source of strength and a memory to hold on. As emphasized, “it is clear Keats was thinking only of Fanny Brawne, and she was undoubtedly the focus of his conversation with Severn. These confessions made Severn believe that the poet’s problems were caused as much by love as a physical disease” (The Life of John Keats, 2004, p. 1).
Overall, the adversities in John Keats’ life provided the influential force for his writings. The poverty and lack of financial affluence triggered profound and deep thoughts that inspired Keats to write with strong sentiments and feelings about nature, love, longing, humanities, and life, in general. At a young age of 25, his death could be regarded as an instrument to inspire other poets to emulate the profound love and innate talent exhibited for writing.
Poem Hunter. (2014). The biography of John Keats.
Poetry Foundation. (2014). John Keats.
Poets.org. (n.d.). John Keats.
SparkNotes LLC. (2014). Odeon a Grecian Urn.
Stanford University. (2011, November 8). John Keats and his greatest love – his brother George: Q&A with biographer Denise Gigante. Retrieved from stanford.edu: http://bookhaven.stanford.edu/2011/11/denise-gigante-tells-a-big-hearted-story-john-keats-and-his-brother/
The Life of John Keats. (2004, March).