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Analysis of ‘To Lord Byron’ John Keats

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To Lord Byron

John Keats was born on 31st October 1795 and is the most popular second generation Romantic poets. Other poets were Lord Byron and P B Shelly. His poems were published just four years before his death which was on 23rd February 1821. He died at a very young age of 25 due to tuberculosis which took away one of his brother as well. His poems were not well received while he was alive but his name grew after his death. By the end of nineteenth century he became one of the most-read poets and he had great influence over different writers and poets. Keats poems are taken for study even to this day as they are lyrical and romantic.

‘To Lord Byron’ was written by John Keats when he was nineteen years old and is not rated as one of his best. Lord Byron was an established English poet from an aristocratic family and for some reason he could not appreciate the work of Keats. Keats on the other hand was young and not rich and admired Lord Byron. It was only after Keats’ death Lord Byron acknowledged the contribution of this young poet. ‘To Lord Byron’ is a sonnet written admiring Lord Byron. The poet starts by directly addressing Byron stating that his melodies are sweet and sad, touching his soul tenderly. Pity is soft and stressed and plays a mournful tune. Byron had caught the tones of that tune and not allowed them to die. Sorrows generally overshadow all other emotion yet his works are no less delightful. Byron generally dressed grieves ‘With a bright halo’. This is compared to a ‘golden moon’, covered by a cloud, with its sides ‘tinged with a resplendent glow’. The orangey rays flash through the dark sky. This again is compared to the white veins on a black marble floor. The dying swan continues to tell the tale – ‘the tale of pleasing woe’.

‘To Lord Byron’ is a sonnet, fourteen line lyrical poem, but does not follow the rhyme scheme expected of a sonnet. The end rhymes also seemforced and are not natural. But most critics take Keats age into consideration and believe that it is a good poem. Many literary devices are used in this poem. Keats starts off with personification of ‘pity’.  She is soft, stressed and gives out sad songs. Byron who wrote sad poems, according to Keats, carried the grief in a pleasing manner. So the rest of the poem is on how Byron could make even the most depressing event to a happy one. The imagery used to convey this is that of a moon being covered by a cloud, yet the beams of light are highlighting the sides of the cloud. The sorrow might cloud us completely but the inner joy should shine forth from us and be seen to the world outside. Through metaphor, poetry is compared to a dying bird song. The poem begins with an oxymoron ‘sweetly sad’ and ends with an oxymoron ‘pleasing woe’. Enjambment, where the thought of one line ends in the next, is used once in this poem.

O’ershading sorrow doth not make thee less

Delightful

This poem prompts us to think of the power of poetry to ignite our senses and feel strongly even if the feeling is negative, sad. The poem explores the power of imagination and also offers to find joy amidst the sufferings. John Keats in a letter to his brother had compared Byron and himself–“He describes what he sees, I describe what I imagine”. Keats believed that his kind of poetry was more difficult. Even so Keats admired Bryon’s poems.