Keats' hellenism

Topics: Greek mythology, Ode on a Grecian Urn, John Keats Pages: 3 (992 words) Published: November 28, 2013
‘’Keats is essentially a Greek among the English poets’’- discuss./ Discuss Keats’ use of classical elements in the odes you have read./ Write on Keats’ Hellenism in his odes.

Keats, as is well known, was not a classical scholar, yet he has been famous for his Hellenism, a term which may be defined as a love of Greek art, literature, culture and way of life. Keats had an inborn love for the Greek spirit,-their Religion of Joy and their religion of Beauty. He once wrote to one of his friends that he never ceased to wonder at ‘all that incarnate delight’ of the Greek way of life. In fact, he was driven to the world of Greek Beauty because he wanted to escape imaginatively from the harsh realities of his present. It should, however, be noted that ‘Keats was a Greek’ because he could enter lovingly and imaginatively into the world of the ancients, and not because his knowledge of it was accurate and scholarly. His presentation of Hallas is romantic and not realistic.

Keats’ mind was saturated with Greek literature and mythology. He habitually chooses Greek stories for his poetry. Endymion. Hyperion, Lamia, Grecian Urn, Psyche etc,- all have the themes borrowed from the Greeks. The Grecian Urn is a monument of the poet’s power of entering imaginatively into another world. We as readers feel that we have been transported entirely to the Hellenic world of beauty, love, festivity and ritual. It is permeated through and through with the Greek spirit. It may also be noted that the ‘Ode’ form, which he made particularly his own and in which he excels all other English poets, is typically a Greek verse form.

Moreover, there are countless allusions to Greek legends and stories in poems which are not directly based on Greek themes. He frequently refers at all places to Muses, Apollo, Pan, Narcissus, Endymion, Diana, and a number of other classical gods and goddesses. In Ode to Nightingale, we have references to Dryads (That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees), the...
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