Poetry Season

Local Navigation

Local Navigation

John Keats 1795-1821


To some he is the king of the Romantic poets. John Keats only lived for 25 years, but in that time managed to produce an array of sensual poems that have reverberated across literature and popular culture.

Born in 1795, Keats came from a modest background and had lost both his parents by the time he was 15. From a young age he wanted to be a poet, but studied medicine at Guy's Hospital. There he began communicating with Leigh Hunt, an established poet who praised Keats' work and encouraged him to give up his studies and concentrate on literature full-time. Keats developed the notion of "negative capability" - the idea that the poet must be able to lose himself in an imaginative experience to create great poetry. The struggle of the poet to achieve this ideal state is explored in poems such as Ode to a Nightingale and Ode on a Grecian Urn . Around 1818 Keats contracted tuberculosis. The following year he met the unrequited love of his life Fanny Brawne, and it is this period which gave rise to the beguilingly beautiful odes for which he is best remembered. In summer 1820 Keats travelled to Italy to recuperate. However he fell ill during the journey and died in 1821. He is buried in Rome, under the epitaph: 'Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water.'

Keats' impact is hard to overestimate. Keats didn't just stir fellow poets, such as Alfred, Lord Tennyson, his influence can still be found in books as wildly diverse as Neil Gaiman's graphic novels and science fiction writer Dan Simmons.

Is Keats
the Nation's
Favourite Poet?


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

John Keats

Ode on a Grecian Urn


The Nation's Favourite Poet

Ian McMillan


Watch Ian McMillan's tips on writing poems for special occasions

Patrick Neate

Spoken Word

Patrick Neate has the lowdown on the UK live poetry circuit

Related Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.