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Quotations from John Keats

1795-1821

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Ode on a Grecian Urn (1820)

As various as the lives of men are, so various become their souls, and thus does God make individual beings, souls, identical souls of the sparks of his own essence.

Letter to George and Georgiana Keats (May 3, 1819)

Call the world if you please "the vale of soul-making." Then you will find out the use of the world.

Letter to George and Georgiana Keats (May 3, 1819)

Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?

Lamia, part 2 (1820)

Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?

Letter to George and Georgiana Keats (May 3, 1819)

Fanatics have their dreams, wherewith they weave
A paradise for a sect.

The Fall of Hyperion

For the sake of a few fine imaginative or domestic passages, are we to be bullied into a certain philosophy engendered in the whims of an egotist?

On Wordsworth, in a letter (February 3, 1818)

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter.

Ode on a Grecian Urn (1820)

I always made an awkward bow.

Final words of Keats' final letter (November 30, 1820)

I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections, and the truth of imagination.

Letter to Benjamin Bailey (November 22, 1817)

I am in that temper that if I were under water I would scarcely kick to come to the top.

Letter (May 21–25, 1818)

I equally dislike the favour of the public with the love of a woman - they are both a cloying treacle to the wings of independence.

Letter (August 23, 1819)

I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for religion - I have shuddered at it. I shudder no more - I could be martyred for my religion - Love is my religion - I could die for that.

Letter to his fiancée, Fanny Brawne (October 13, 1819)

I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason…

Letter to George and Thomas Keats (December, 1817)

I never can feel certain of any truth, but from a clear perception of its beauty.

Letter to George and Georgiana Keats (January, 1819)

I would jump down Etna for any public good - but I hate a mawkish popularity.

Letter (April 9, 1818)

Land and sea, weakness and decline are great separators, but death is the great divorcer for ever.

Letter (September 30, 1820)

My imagination is a monastery and I am its monk.

Letter to Percy Bysshe Shelley (August 16, 1820)

Now it appears to me that almost any Man may like the Spider spin from his own inwards (sic) his own airy Citadel.

Letter to John Hamilton Reynolds (February 19, 1818)

O fret not after knowledge - I have none,
And yet my song comes native with the warmth.
O fret not after knowledge - I have none,
And yet the Evening listens.

What the Thrush Said, from a letter to John Hamilton Reynolds

Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine -
Unweave a rainbow.

Lamia, part 2 (1820)

Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself, but with its subject.

Letter (February 3, 1818)

Poetry should surprise by a fine excess and not by singularity - it should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.

Letter (February 27, 1818)

Praise or blame has but a momentary effect on the man whose love of beauty in the abstract makes him a severe critic on his own works.

Letter (October 9, 1818)

The imagination of a boy is healthy, and the mature imagination of a man is healthy; but there is a space of life between, in which the soul is in a ferment, the character undecided, the way of life uncertain, the ambition thick-sighted: thence proceeds mawkishness.

Endymion, Preface (1818)

The only means of strengthening one's intellect is to make up one's mind about nothing - to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts. Not a select party.

Letter to George and Georgiana Keats (September 17-27, 1819)

The roaring of the wind is my wife and the stars through the window pane are my children. The mighty abstract idea I have of beauty in all things stifles the more divided and minute domestic happiness.

Letter to George and Thomas Keats (October 14-31, 1818)

There is an electric fire in human nature tending to purify - so that among these human creatures there is continually some birth of new heroism. The pity is that we must wonder at it, as we should at finding a pearl in rubbish.

Letter to George and Georgiana Keats (May 3, 1819)

There is not a fiercer hell than the failure in a great object.

Endymion, Preface (1818)

There is nothing stable in the world; uproar’s your only music.

Letter to George and Thomas Keats (January 13-19, 1818)

Though a quarrel in the streets is a thing to be hated, the energies displayed in it are fine; the commonest man shows a grace in his quarrel.

Letter to George and Georgiana Keats (May 3, 1819)

Though the most beautiful creature were waiting for me at the end of a journey or a walk; though the carpet were of silk, the curtains of the morning clouds; the chairs and sofa stuffed with cygnet’s down; the food manna, the wine beyond claret, the window opening on Winander Mere, I should not feel - or rather my happiness would not be so fine, as my solitude is sublime.

Letter to George and Georgiana Keats (October 14-31, 1818)

What I heard a little time ago Taylor observe with respect to Socrates may be said of Jesus -- that he was so great a man that though he transmitted no writing of his own to posterity, we have his Mind and his sayings and his greatness handed to us by others. It is to be lamented that the history of the latter was written and revised by Men interested in the pious frauds of Religion.

Letter to George and Georgiana Keats (May 3, 1819)

What shocks the virtuous philosopher, delights the chameleon poet.

Letter to Richard Woodhouse (October 27, 1818)

When I have fears that I may cease to be,
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain…
then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

Untitled sonnet, written in a letter (January 31, 1818)

Who would wish to be among the commonplace crowd of the little famous - who are each individually lost in a throng made up of themselves?

Letter (August 23, 1819)

With a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.

Letter to George and Thomas Keats (December 21, 1817)

You speak of Lord Byron and me - there is this great difference between us. He describes what he sees - I describe what I imagine. Mine is the hardest task.

Letter to George and Georgiana Keats (September 17-27, 1819)



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