John Keats from Fool to Fulfilment

John Keats from Fool to Fulfilment cover

Part biography, part history, part literary commentary, this detailed account of the poetic development of John Keats takes the reader from the poet’s early childhood to the months just before his death.

In the autumn of 1820, John Keats, persuaded by his friends, set sail for Italy. Seriously ill with consumption, or tuberculosis, he clung to the hope that the warmer Mediterranean climate would be beneficial to his health.

And after almost five weeks battling through violent storms and heavy seas, the Maria Crowther at last dropped anchor in the Bay of Naples, only for the authorities to impose a 10 day quarantine on all crew and passengers, preventing anyone from going ashore.

Those ten days provide the timescale for this narrative in which the young poet looks back on his life, tries to put his affairs in order and traces his emergence as the “youth elect”, the chosen one of his generation. In his poetry, Keats focussed not on Romantic principles, but chose classical settings and Greek and Roman mythology for his inspiration. He saw himself like Spenser’s Red Cross Knight, on a quest to confront the darkness of the world and discover the enlightenment of love.

Keats’ seminal work is Endymion, which is a poem about a young man falling in love with the moon goddess, and his attempts to hold on to that love. Keats identified with the hero of the poem, and Endymion’s quest through the dark forests and deep caverns of the earth, his venturing beneath the oceans, where he brings the drowned dead back to life, and through the upper reaches of the air, in pursuit of the moon goddess, is Keats’ quest too. It is, in effect, everyone’s quest – to find true love in this world.

John Keats began his writing career supported by a close circle of friends who were radical free-thinkers in matters of both politics and culture. They embraced the revolutionary ideas of Hermeticism so popular in London at the time, convinced that following Hermetic principles could bring about social, religious and political change.

This is the story of John Keats told in Hermetic terms and with each section headed by one of the major cards from the Tarot pack: as a child, he is the Fool, setting out on his journey through life. In his loneliest moments he is the Hermit, in his darkest times, he must experience the Death card, in his first sexual experiences, the Devil card is played. But by the end, aged just 25, he has achieved the World, he has achieved maturity and discovered love and fulfilment.

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