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Keats’s and Shelley’s Relationship

Free «Keats's and Shelley's Relationship» Essay Sample

Everyone knows about the eighteenth century as the century of reason and neo-classicism. Literature, architecture and other spheres were adhered to a classic style, classic thoughts and logic. Although there was a reaction against neo-classicism, it was Romanticism. It did not mean that artists, writers and poets of Romanticism declared that classicism had a bad influence, but what they did not like about it was the absence of emotions. Romantics agreed that logical thinking was significant, but not without emotions, without any hint of imagination. The revolutionists of the second Romantic generation included Keats, Shelley and Byron, whose works were highly criticized till their death. This second generation slightly differs from the first one as their thoughts and works are much more dramatic and melancholic. However, one of the most intriguing and interesting facts is the similarity and differences in Keats’s and Shelley’s poetry. Was it influenced by their friendship? What were the similarities and what were the differences?

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While being the two great contributors to English literature, John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley were good friends as well. Both poets lived a short life, but also both of them made a major contribution to the Romanticism period. Namely, both Shelley and Keats are similar in their poetry and style, but there are also differences too. Both poets, for example, were very sentimental in their attitude to nature; that is exactly the reason why their poetry is filled with the magnificent feelings and love to every expression of beauty that nature possesses. For instance, in To a Skylark written by Shelley, the poet shows readers the nature, a bird as a symbol of purity and joy. Moreover, one can feel that under the image of bird Shelley hid himself, the soul of the poet. Keats in his Ode to a Nightingale also describes not just a bird, but himself as a nightingale. He showed readers his life journey; readers are shown how a bird could live forever and outlive death, when the poet could not. In both poems, To a Skylark and Ode to a Nightingale, poets are narrators, listeners of birds’ songs, but when in the first poem this song is more optimistic, in the Keats’s work, the nightingale’s song is very dramatic and deathly painful. It seems like Keats, being a narrator, wanted to leave this world too, abandon his house, his life and fly with a bird into darkness. In Ode to a Nightingale the narrator describes himself as a bird, and then in To a Skylark, the narrator mostly expresses himself as some spirit and not a creature from the real world. It is not just a coincidence that Shelley stresses reader’s attention to the capital “S” in the word “Spirit” as to the Lord like saying to us that skylark is something much more than just a bird, that this creature is unseen. Therefore, it may be from heaven. In order to describe a skylark as something pure and even saint, Shelley used a lot of similes. Moreover, in To a Skylark,Shelley and the narrator are looking for faith and happiness; meanwhile, in Ode to a Nightingale,the Keats’s narrator describes his tragedy and how much he suffers. Although the narrator is happy for the nightingale at the same time as the bird can at least find his happiness. The narrator in Ode to a Nightingale is happy and amazed how the bird is able to feel the summer; how it is able to feel the purest joy from nature and summer weather. That is exactly the reason why the narrator dreams of feeling the same, finding his happiness beyond the shackles of life. Despite the dramatic feelings, the narrator wants to join the nightingale; he believes that happiness exists and that he can feel it only if he joins the bird’s journey. Although in the end of Ode to a Nightingale the narrator feels the tragedy of life again; he feels that he cannot change the reality; he realizes that he cannot live just in his fantasies and that it does not matter whether you are a bird or a man, you cannot escape the inevitability of death. Both poems describe wishes of a mortal creature to be at least a bird and feel the happiness for at least a little while. In Ode to a Nightingale,the narrator is more dramatic, and he faces the reality in the end of the poem, when in To a Skylark the narrator is more optimistic, and even in the end he longs to find and feel the real joy and happiness of life. All these similarities and differences in both poems proved and showed that Shelley and Keats are the romantic revolutionists of their time, who described their protests through transcendent objects of nature used in their poetic works. Both Keats and Shelley showed readers the reality of those times through transcendent objects such as beauty and nature, and specifically through the image of birds.


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One can say that Keats and Shelley deserved to be called birds, namely skylark and nightingale of their period, with their own beliefs and own principles, which were so brightly described in the poetry of these talented men. Keats and Shelley were lovers of nature, both longed to be heard and understood, both were the epic poets that died being so young. Keats and Shelley are the eternal skylark and nightingale of Romanticism.

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