“A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever” by John Keats

One could hardly think of a British poet of the nineteenth century who is as soulful and lyrical as John Keats. His life was very short – he died from tuberculosis at the age of 25, – yet he managed to leave a great poetic legacy.

John Keats had an eye for beauty – he saw it in all the things that surrounded him. His own poems enabled him to come closer to the beauty and wonders of life, and to reveal them to anyone who was ready to it.

The author phrases his creative credo in the introduction to his first large-scale work, the epic poem “Endymion” written in 1817. The credo was as follows: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”. Shortly after its creation the introduction received a new life as a separate poem. Keats stayed in the history of British poetry as a person forever mesmerized by beauty.

The poet emphasized the transiency of life, he probably had a presentiment that his own life path won’t be long. That’s why he did not want to lose time. He phrased the three principles of poetry at the age of 18. The poem “A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever” reflects each of them. According to Keats, “poetry should surprise by a fine excess and not by singularity”. He also claimed that poetry should not leave lack of understanding or unsatisfied curiosity. According to the third principle, if a poem does not agree with the first two principles, it should not exist.

Throughout his life as a poet Keats was always trying to stick to this manifesto. Contrary to the traditions of the romantic literature, he was looking for the sources of beauty not in the world of fantasy or the past, but in real life. For him, beauty was an immortal muse and an embodiment of the truth. And the beauty could be found in all the things surrounding us.

Moreover, according to Keats, only the person who is capable of discovering “the idea of Beauty in all things” is capable of either creating or understanding poetry. Only the person who is gifted with great imagination and interest to the absolute beauty can fully perceive poetry and appreciate its wonders. He believes that understanding of beauty starts with tender stories and continues in pleasant and harmonious natural phenomena and even the elements.

The poem “A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever” can be heard in the drama film Bright Star directed by Jane Campion (2009). The movie telling the story of Keats and the love of his life is wonderfully complemented by the lines of this poem, a wonderful hymn to beauty.

Reviewed by Katerina Sidoruk