Monday 11 January
6 PM GMT
7 PM CET
With Professor Gregory Dowling
10% of ticket proceeds will be donated to the Keats-Shelley House museum in Rome.
We are approaching the bicentenary of John Keats’s death, which occurred in Rome on 23rd February 1821. He was the first of the second generation of young Romantic poets to die, to be followed just a year and a half later by Shelley, and two years after that by Byron. Keats had not achieved anything like the fame (or notoriety) of his two great contemporaries during his lifetime but he has since become perhaps the best loved of English poets. This lecture will concentrate on two key poems, one from the beginning of his tragically short career, the sonnet ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’, and one from the end, the ‘Ode to Autumn’, a poem that has a decidedly valedictory tone.
The sonnet testifies to Keats’s discovery of the power of classical mythology, something he came to afresh, unlike his more privileged contemporaries who had had the benefit of a classical education.
The great ode, written at the same time as Shelley’s ‘Ode to the West Wind’, is an intensely private and personal poem, whose power to move is closely tied to the poet’s keen awareness of his own mortality. It has been described as the most beautiful poem in the English language. We will try to discover what lies behind its sensuous beauty.