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The Effect of John Keats' Health on His Work

Powerful Essays
The Effect of John Keats' Health on His Work

In his elegy for the poet John Keats, Adonais, his friend and fellow

poet Percy Bysshe Shelley writes: "With me / Died Adonais; till the Future dares

/ Forget the Past, his fate and fame shall be / An echo and a light unto

eternity" (6-9). Shelley speaks of the eternal nature of Keats' poetry, which,

although written at a specific time in literary history, addresses timeless

issues such as life, death, love, sorrow, and poetic expression. Keats lived

only twenty-six years, but his poetry reflects a mind concerned with his own

place in the present and the future; he seemed to want most desperately to

belong to the world as a poet. Perhaps he felt this way because he knew, once

he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, that he would not live long and would,

therefore, have less time in which to write and to say what he wanted to say.

He has been described as "the most significant mythical figure of the tubercular

poet in Britain" (Lawlor and Suzuki 488). Keats' knowledge of his illness

affected his work to the extent that his readers often feel his own sense of

sorrow and impatience as he tries to express his creative ideas in the brief

time which he knows he will have.

John Keats was born on Halloween in 1795 in London, the oldest of

four children (Keats). Keats' father died when the poet was only eight years

old (Keats), and the resulting trauma and anxiety that it caused his family

seems to have affected him deeply. As one critic states, these events

contributed "to his mature sense that the career of the artist was an

exploration o...

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...H. Abrams, et.al. New York: Norton, 2000.

851-853.

---. "Ode to a Nightingale." The Norton Anthology of English Literature, volume

2. Seventh edition. Ed. M.H. Abrams, et.al. New York: Norton, 2000. 849-851.

---. "When I Have Fears." The Norton Anthology of English Literature, volume 2.

Seventh edition. Ed. M.H. Abrams, et.al. New York: Norton, 2000. 833-834.

Lawlor, Clark and Akihito Suzuki. "The Disease of the Self: Representing

Comsumption, 1700- 1830." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 74.3 (2000):

458-494. The Gale Group. Literature Resource Center. Union County Coll. Lib.,

Cranford, NJ. 27 March 2003.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. Adonais. The Norton Anthology of English Literature,

volume 2. Seventh edition. Ed. M.H. Abrams, et.al. New York: Norton, 2000.

772-786.
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