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Last Sonnet by John Keats
Transcript of Last Sonnet by John Keats
John Keats (31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821) was an English Romantic poet. He was one of the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, despite his work having been in publication for only four years before his death.
Last Sonnet by John Keats
John Keats was born in Moorgate, London, on 31 October 1795 to Thomas Keats and his wife, born Frances Jennings. The young Keats was described as a volatile character, "always in extremes", given to indolence and fighting. However, at 13 he began focusing his energy on reading and study, winning his first academic prize in midsummer 1809. In March 1810 when Keats was 14, his mother died of tuberculosis, leaving the children in the custody of their grandmother.
Keats trained as an apothecary but later quit to become a poet.Keats befriended Isabella Jones in May 1817, while on holiday in the village of Bo Peep, near Hastings. She is described as beautiful, talented and widely read, not of the top flight of society yet financially secure, an enigmatic figure who would become a part of Keats circle.
Throughout their friendship Keats never hesitates to own his attraction to her, although they seem to enjoy circling each other rather than offering commitment. He writes that 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". The first version of Last Sonnet is said to have been for her. On 3 April, Keats met another girl, Brawne. He gave her the love sonnet "Bright Star" (perhaps revised for her) as a declaration.
Keats endured great conflict knowing his expectations as a struggling poet in increasingly hard straits would preclude marriage to Brawne. Their love remained unconsummated; jealousy for his 'star' began to gnaw at him. Darkness, disease and depression surrounded him,, Keats wrote to Brawne on 13 October 1819: "My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you. I have been astonished that Men could die Martyrs for religion – I have shudder'd at it – I shudder no more – I could be martyr'd for my Religion – Love is my religion – I could die for that – I could die for you."
BRIGHT star! would I were steadfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priest-like task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.
The main theme of the poem is eternity. This is the reason that the star is so important to the speaker of this poem. He wants an eternity with his head pressed against his girlfriend's chest, if he can't have that he would rather 'swoon to death.' (line 14). In line 3, when Keats describes the star as "watching, with eternal lids apart," he uses personification to gives us a clearer image of what eternity might feel like. He describes the star as always watching.
Keats uses the theme of eternity in conjunction with transience. The speaker wants normally transient experiences to last for an eternity. Such as laying forever on his girlfriend's chest. He isn't interested in eternity for itself. He would like to be 'awake for ever in a sweet unrest' (line 12)
The main message of the poem is that the speaker would rather spend eternity with his lover than see all the beauty the world has to offer.
The poem has a distinct melancholy tone as it begins with the speaker longing to be someone else. A star. The star is personified throughout the poem and we experience the speakers deep feeling of jealousy towards him. The tone of the poem inspires sympathy for the speaker, with lines such as 'bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art'
The main symbol in this poem is the star. The poet uses the star to embody eternity but in contrast uses the star to highlight the negative points of eternity. The speaker speaks of the coldness of immortality, albeit in a desirous light, and he contrasts it with his own view of immortality. The star's eternity is cold as he gazes upon nature unblinking, whilst the poet longs for an eternity of warmth with his lover. It is a strange parallel, two perceptions of eternity that cannot exist in conjunction with each other.
There is an abundance of nature imagery in this poem. The poet uses nature imagery to illustrate the star's entertainment during its existence. 'Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors.' (lines 7 & 8). The poet gives us a very vivid image of what the earth looks like from an unchanging eye.
The personification in this is very pronounced. The star is personified in first line. The water is personified in line 5 where it says, 'The moving waters at their priest-like task'.
There is a dream-like tone to the poem. The speaker seems to be imagining a conversation between the star and himself. The lilting rhythm to the poem lends an ethereal quality to it. We can assume the setting is at night as the character is talking to a star. This knowledge further enhances the dream-like quality of the poem
The rhyme scheme of the poem is a,b,a,b,d,c,d,e,f,e,f,g,g. This is the rhyme scheme of an italian sonnet
By Malaika Okundi & Tanvi Ashok
Year 10 Literature
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