The Poet as Hero: Keats in his Letters

"The Poet as Hero: Keats in his Letters." Originally published as the introduction to The Selected Letters of John Keats, New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1951.


“We cannot understand Keats’s mind without a very full awareness of what powers of enjoyment he had and of how freely he licensed those powers. The pleasure of the senses was for him not merely desirable—it was the very ground of life. It was, moreover, the ground of thought. More than any other poet—more, really, than Shelley—Keats is Platonic, but his Platonism is not doctrinal or systematic: it was by the natural impulse of his temperament that his mind moved up the ladder of love which Plato expounds in The Symposium, beginning with the love of things and moving toward the love of ideas, with existences and moving toward essences, with appetites and moving toward immortal longings.”

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