Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Posts Tagged ‘John Keats

Quote of the Day

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Portrait of John Keats by William Hilton

The genius of poetry must work out its own salvation in a man: it cannot be matured by law and precept, but by sensation and watchfulness in itself…In “Endymion,” I leaped headlong into the sea, and thereby have become better acquainted with the soundings, the quicksands, and the rocks, than if I had stayed upon the green shore, and piped a silly pipe, and took tea and comfortable advice.

John Keats

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July 7, 2015 at 7:30 am

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“A poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence…”

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Portrait of John Keats by William Hilton

As to the poetical character itself…it is not itself—it has no self—it is everything and nothing. It has no character—it enjoys light and shade; it lives in gusto, be it foul or fair, high or low, rich or poor, mean or elevated. It has as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen. What shocks the virtuous philosopher delights the chameleon poet. It does no harm from its relish of the dark side of things any more than from its taste for the bright one, because they both end in speculation. A poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence because he has no identity—he is continually infor[ming] and filling some other body. The sun, the moon, the sea and men and women who are creatures of impulse are poetical and have about them an unchangeable attribute—the poet has none, no identity. He is certainly the most unpoetical of all god’s creatures.

John Keats, in a letter to Richard Woodhouse

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October 18, 2014 at 9:00 am

John Keats on negative capability

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Portrait of John Keats by William Hilton

At once it struck me what quality went to form a man of achievement, especially in literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously—I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.

John Keats, in a letter to George and Thomas Keats

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June 2, 2013 at 9:50 am

Housman’s Razor

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Poetry indeed seems to me more physical than intellectual. A year or two ago, in common with others, I received from America a request that I would define poetry. I replied that I could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat, but that I thought we both recognised the object by the symptoms which it provokes in us. One of these symptoms was described in connexion with another object by Eliphaz the Temanite: “A spirit passed before my face: the hair of my flesh stood up.” Experience has taught me, when I am shaving of a morning, to keep watch over my thoughts, because, if a line of poetry strays into my memory, my skin bristles so that the razor ceases to act. This particular symptom is accompanied by a shiver down the spine; there is another which consists in a constriction of the throat and a precipitation of water to the eyes; and there is a third which I can only describe by borrowing a phrase from one of Keats’s last letters, where he says, speaking of Fanny Brawne, “everything that reminds me of her goes through me like a spear.” The seat of this sensation is the pit of the stomach.

A.E. Housman, “The Name and Nature of Poetry”

Written by nevalalee

January 8, 2011 at 12:05 pm

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