An Analysis of On Sitting Down To Read King Lear Once Again

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An Analysis of On Sitting Down To Read King Lear Once Again

The poem "On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again" by John Keats is a sonnet about Keats' relationship with the drama that became his idea of tragic perfection, and how it relates to his own struggle with the issues of short life and premature death. Keats uses the occasion of the rereading this play to explore his seduction by it and its influence on himself and his ways of looking at himself and his situation in spite of his negative capability.

From the first few lines Keats alludes to the great romances of the previous ages as opposed to William Shakespeare's great tragedies. While it could be discerned that Keats is referring to his poem Endymion: A Poetic Romance, the underlying meaning of the lines remains. Keats writes "O golden tongued Romance, with serene lute!/ Fair plumed Syren Queen of far-away!/ Leave melodizing on this wintry day,/ Shut up thine olden pages and be mute." (Lines 1 - 4). Keats here is shutting out the idyllic romantic notions he cannot at this time cling to due to the ever present spectre of death that hangs above him. Keats forsakes the romantic here leaning instead toward the tragic, which is what he perceives his short life to be. In these opening lines Keats seems to be a desperate, and morose storyteller who forbids himself the taste of the ideal, regardless of how strong a pull romance has for him. Keats is forced to command the romance to "Shut up thine olden pages and be mute!" (4) in order to pull himself away from it. This shows not only the strong attraction romance holds for Keats, but also Keats' recognition of the Romance as a personified thing he can converse with and bid "Adieu!" (5). The use of ...

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...ime it is clear that Keats has succeeded in accomplishing the transition of the Phoenix into immortality, as Keats still lives on over one hundred seventy five years after his death in his poetry and our memories


O golden tongued Romance, with serene lute! Fair plumed Syren, Queen of far-away! Leave melodizing on this wintry day, Shut up thine olden pages, and be mute: Adieu! for once again the fierce dispute (5) Betwixt damnation and impassion'd clay Must I burn through; once more humbly assay The bitter-sweet of this Shakespearian fruit. Chief Poet! and ye clouds of Albion, Begetters of our deep eternal theme! (10) When through the old oak Forest I am gone, Let me not wander in a barren dream, But when I am consumed in the fire, Give me new Phoenix wings to fly at my desire.
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