Analysis of ‘Endymion’ by John Keats


In the eighth edition of  Encyclopaedia Britannica, Alexander Smith’s entry about Keats is “With but one or two exceptions, no poet of the last generation stands at this moment higher in the popular estimation, and certainly no one has in a greater degree influenced the poetic development of the last thirty years.” As a person too, people had only nice words for. All who met him admired him and his close friends were passionately devoted to him. Severn who was with Keats during the last days and moments remembered that. “On his deathbed in great emotion at his cruel destiny he told me that his greatest pleasure had been the watching the growth of flowers……There was a strong bias of the beautiful side of humanity in everything he did.”

Endymion is John Keats first major work which was published in 1818 and is regarded as one of his masterpieces.  These lines are taken form Book one. The most oft quoted line ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’ are the words of Keats and the opening line of the poem ‘Endymion’. In the first stanza he says that beauty lasts for ever and will never fade. This beauty is what brings us out of our gloomy days. He reiterates that beauty removes the gloom and our dark spirits. Then he lists the things of beauty including the sun, the moon, trees, sheep, daffodils, musk-rose blooms. Keats goes on to say that beauty is there indeath also; he calls it ‘mighty death’. There are stories about death and the immortal drink making death a fascinating thing. The second stanza is very short and he says that the beauty that is observed enters into us and we become beautiful and all through trials of life we remain beautiful.

In the third stanza he says that ‘with full happiness ‘he would like to tell the story of Endymion, a Greek mythological character. He is fascinated by the name ‘Endymion’ and the music of the word has entered his body. Every scene is seen fresh before him like the green valleys. So he is going to begin his story and it’s early in the morning. He brings in the early morn feel, by citing that there was no city din, the flowers were still buds and the pails that ‘Bring home increase of milk’. He goes to say how long he will take to write this long poem on Endymion. He calls his work a boat and he hopes to write while the flowers and bees are still around. He does not want to pull it till the ‘bare and hoary’ winter season. He wants to finish his work by autumn when there is a ‘universal tinge of sober gold’ around him. He ends the first book of Endymion with the lines that he will send a messenger announcing his intention to write a long story which he knows is not going to be an easy path.

These lines from Book One of Endymion have twenty nine lines in three stanzas. The rhyme scheme is AABBCCDDEE…. Every two lines rhyme. What stands out in the poem is the enjambment. Enjambment is the poetic device where the idea begun in one line is carried forward or ends the next line. This is seen all through the poem; one at the beginning of the poem is,

it will never

Pass into nothingness;

I send

My herald thought into a wilderness:  is seen at the poem. Enjambment is seen all through.

Anaphora is brought by the repetition of the words ‘Now while’.  Alliteration is seen is the usage of ‘band to bind’; ‘simple sheep’. The imagery created is that of pastoral scenes though there is a mention of the ‘bare and hoary’ winter. Autumn imagery is also brought in through the words ‘tinge of sober gold’. The theme is plain and simple and mentioned straight away in the first line,

‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: ‘


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