The great Romantic poet, John Keats, was born in 1795, in a part of London called Moorfields. He trained as a doctor in London before his efforts for writing poetry really increased. The love of his life was a young lady called Fanny Brawne that he had known for two years. In 1818 the couple came to an understanding, because she confused Keats very much. Keats continued to see Fanny as perfect and she appeared in his poems occasionally. He began to feel that the commitment that he held for Fanny was dragging him away from his work and distracting his writing. Keats was suffering from Tuberculosis and was recommended to sail to Rome where his health could recover.
He had to leave his love and set sail for Rome on the 17th of September from London with a friend. His brother and Mother both had Tuberculosis and he nursed them in Devon. His Father had passed away when Keats was eight. Keats was a genius and on a good day he could produce 40 lines of poetry but on the boat he wrote nothing. Keats arrived on shore on his 25th birthday and could not feel the beauty of the city. The journey was a failure. Keats died 23rd of February 1821. It was found that his lungs were completely destroyed by the disease. The French Revolution in 1789 also affected many other Romantic poets such as Shelley, Byron and Wordsworth.
It was thought to have brought a new creativity. Romanticism made an issue of imagination being praised over reason, emotion over logic and intuition over science. This idea brought about freedom of thought and expression, in literature. Romanticism is not a simple as writing down anything, there are many qualities contained in Romantic pieces. Contrasts are typical of Romantic poetry. The poem “The Eve of St Agnes” is a worthy example of many contrasts. Porphyro, the crazed lover, comes to visit the castle where Madeline is staying. He travels through the extremely cold weather to see her: “Ah, bitter chill it was!” In contrast to the bitter cold weather, Porphyro himself is warm inside for Madeline’s love: “with heart on fire” This contrast shows how Porphyro cannot be stopped by the extreme weather because he is fuelled by the thought of Madeline.
Youth and age is briefly written about within the poem. The old Beadsman is portrayed as a very elderly man: Flatter’d to tears this aged man and poor;” Compared to the young stimulated youth shown by Porphyro and Madeline, the old man becomes even more elderly: “But soon his eyes grew brilliant,” Keats has used the bursting youth of Porphyro to enhance the age of the old Beadsman and towards the end of “The Eve of Saint Agnes” Keats brings the idea that life is not permanent and can end just as quickly as a life is made: “ages long ago… Angela the old Died palsy-twitch’d” Keats knows that he is dying as he wrote this and want to use this idea that he could die any day into this poem.
Light is one of Keats favourite factors that he plays with in his work. He uses the comparison of light and darkness to expose an atmospheric mood of a certain place or person. “‘Tis dark:” Madeline does not want to leave with Porphyro because of the nasty weather outside and how Madeline had been beamed with multiple colours but now is left out in the dark. Keats great description of light in Madeline’s room shining through onto her is immensely thoughtful: “She seem’d a splendid angel, newly drest,” The moon light shining through the stain glass window is projecting an image of a halo upon Madeline’s head, and Porphyro is seeing her as a gracious angel. It is known that moon light is not strong enough to penetrate a window and shine into the room but Keats wanted to play with the delicate imagery of the moonlight. The colours are a main part of description in this part of the poem.
Visual imagery is enhanced by the contrast in colour that Keats has brought forward top the reader as a Romantic Poet does: “Innumerable of stains and splendid dyes,” Madeline’s blazing beauty has been shown off by the incredible display of colours in her room. Compared to the colours that are being made by the moonlight, the moonlight itself is a sombre form of light. “the faded moon Made a dim, silver twilight,” The evening, which has been engrossed in colour and a fury of feelings, has been made more serious by the weakening intensity of the moon. The contrast of colour and sombreness has given the idea of playfulness and then commitment.
Sound and silence comes into the poem occasionally, where a clarinet is being played and the doors shut and it all stops: “The hall door shuts again, and all the noise is gone.” This can give a feeling of concentration and the sounds that are being produced create pictures in the readers mind. A family feud is present within the story line of the poem “The Eve of St Agnes” between Porphyro and Madeline’s family. Porphyro is fighting for love and will do anything for Madeline, but the family hate him:
“Yet men will murder upon holy day:” Whereas when hate is brought into the poem it is overruled by love: “Let us away, my love, with happy speed;” The whole poem contains love and the feelings that Porphyro holds for Madeline are the main foundations to the poem. The family are also willing to kill which is bad and all Porphyro wants is love. There is a constant thought of Good against Evil. “The Eve of St Agnes” is the only night that a girl can see her future husband in her dreams. In all of Keats poems there is a constant reminder of dream and reality. In “La belle dame sans merci” there is no clear boundary of dream and reality: “And there I dream’d Ah Woe betide!”
The faery’s child is lulling the Knight to sleep and he dreams of dead knights and Princes. In “The Eve of St Agnes” Madeline doesn’t want to be woken into reality because Porphyro is not the man she wants him to be: “How chang’d thou art! How pallid, chill, drear!” Madeline finds dreaming much more pleasant to live with and is disappointed by reality. “La belle dame sans merci” features a Knight that has been seduced by the “Femme Fatale”: “She look’d at me as she did love And made sweet moan”