Keats and His Legacy

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John Keats wrote many poems that had similar themes. Much of his work is considered to be a key part of Romantic Poetry. To understand one of his poems it is necessary to look beyond it to his other works and personal life. One poem worth just such a look is "Ode to a Grecian Urn". This poem contains not only aspects of his writing which are reflected in his other works but some certain stylistic elements that reflect aspects of his personal life.

The stylistic elements mentioned also appear in the title. On the surface, this poem is about what the title dictates: a Grecian urn. The urn however is a metaphor for legacy. "When old age shall this generation waste, Thou shalt remain…" (Lines 46 and 47) This passage conveys that the story told in the painting of the urn shall outlive this generation and live on. Throughout the poem Keats describes how the stories will never wear out as he goes from frame to frame of the urn.

Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
(Lines 17-20)
This passage talks of a scene between two lovers on the urn. Keats almost envies them because their love will never fade, although the man will never reach his goal of kissing the girl.
Keats' own life was cut short at a young age (1795-1821) when he fell ill with tuberculosis, just as his mother and brother had. Most of his poems reflect his almost melancholy outlook on life and his longing for a legacy to be left behind after his death. "Ode to a Grecian Urn" shows a theme of a legacy, a legacy which is almost envied by the speaker in the poem. "When I Have Fears that I May Cease To Be" is another work of Keats' which shows a fear of death and concern for what is left behind.

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charactry,
Hold likerich garners...
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