A Thing of Beauty by John Keats
About the poet .. John Keats (1795-1821) died young. At the age of just 25, when the literary world had begun to see the genius in him, he succumbed to T.B. As a trail blazer among the second generation of poets who rooted their poems in Romanticism, Keats can be compared with the legendary Lord Byron, and Percy B. Shelly. Despite his very short literary life f a mere four years, he wrote many master pieces that continue to enthrall readers even today. This poem is an extract from Endymion: A Poetic Romance. Endymion is a Greek mythological character who lived in the Mount Latmos as a shepherd. He was young, and poetic. In his dream, he saw Cynthia, the Moon Goddess. She was a paragon of beauty, and Endymion was intensely enamoured of her. He went in her pursuit, wandering through forests and lands. Alas, the lovelorn young Endymion overdoes his quest, and tragically enters the sea. The end is sorrowful.
The poem …
First five lines..
A thing of beauty is a joy ………………….. quiet breathing
Meaning … A thing of beauty is a perennial source of joy. It never diminishes, and its appeal seldom wanes. Like an eternal source of ebullience, it soothes our nerves, makes our place of living joyful, and fills us with beautiful dreams during our sleep. Like a reinvigorating balm, it makes us healthy, blissful.
Second five lines …
Therefore, on every morrow, ………… o’er-darkened ways
Meaning .. Living on earth is never always a bed of roses. Life often gets mired in sorrows, frustrations, and despair. In order to dispel such dark clouds of doom, the earth has its oasis. The myriad things of beauty that the earth is dotted with are like garlands of flower that bind us to the earth. Without these, life will be barren and insufferable. These beautiful objects provide us with the much-needed respite and solace.
Third five lines …
Made for our searching: yes, …….. such are daffodils
Meaning .. Sadly, many of the beautiful things on earth play hide-and-seek with us. They become elusive when we want to feast our eyes in them. This is rather tragic. However, they reappear and we can again draw bask in their bliss. The sun, the moon make themselves visible to us in periodic intervals. The woods grow from seed to sapling to large trees, eventually weather in their dotage, and fall. The cycle goes on relentlessly. In a similar way, sheep grow from their tiny shapes, till they are culled. Again more sheep are born to graze in the meadows offering us great delight. The daffodils blossom in thousands filling the landscape in their dazzling yellow, but they too, weather and fall. Thus, the cycle of birth and death continues.
Fourth five lines …
With the green world ……………… of the dooms
Meaning .. The wild flowers and some species of trees thrive near the forest streams where the water gives them the nourishment. The shady foliage, and the cool ambience fosters their growth. It provides a shelter against the summer heat. The inside of the forest becomes awash with musk-rose blooms.
The power and awe of the Nature’s pang of destruction is inescapable.
Last four lines …
We have imagined …………………… heaven’s brink
Meaning .. We have all heard and experienced the inexorable dance of gloom, doom and destruction. It is an integral part of the life on earth. However, the fountain of life and happiness never dries up. We have all heard stories of regeneration, joy, and optimism. This is because the Heaven pours a un-ending stream of nectar onto the earth, to sustain life, vitality and happiness for we all.
Questions and answers …
Think it out ..
Q1. List the things ……. These are the Sun, the Moon, trees, saplings, sheep, Daffodils, clear rills, and Musk-rose blooms are a few of the objects that enthralled the poet.
Q2. List the things that cause suffering ….. Hot summer, Dearth of noble nature, gloomy days, dark spirits etc.
Q3. What does the line, “…………………………..” ……… The line refers to the many beautiful things that are there on earth for us to draw our happiness from.
Q4. What makes human beings love ……… Life on earth may appear dark and hard at times, but there are so many beautiful things in Nature that banish the sorrow and drudgery of our existence. They rejuvenate us, filling our mind and body with energy, hope and vigour. Because of such healing and restoring objects, we, humans, love to live in this world.
Q5. Why is ‘grandeur’ ….. We all have heard of the many beautiful things, including humans, who existed in this world earlier, but now are no more. They have all gone ceding place to newer, lovelier things to come. The word ‘grandeur’ refers to the grand and beautiful things that existed before, but are now dead.
Q6. Do we experience .. We might see them for short moments, but their beauty leaves a lasting impression in our mind. One can refer to Robert Frost’s poem ‘Daffodils’ for this. Frost saw the flowers for not long a time, but they remained imprinted in his soul as a source of hope and energy.
Q7. What images … A quiet bower, the Sun and the Moon, the woods, and streams and the foliage in the forests are the images the poet uses to describe the bounty on earth.