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The Stylistic Analysis of The Poetic Botany of John Keats

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Poetry is the realm of emotions. This is especially true for the works of the Romantic poets. During this literary period, love was presented as the paramount consideration for life. They distinguish this period from others by the employment of several literary devices to demonstrate their love and passion to beautiful lovers or life, hatred and regret to death or separation. In order to achieve these aims, poets were required to master good usage of words that convey strong emotive meaning. Sometimes, these poets addressed to the nature to embellish and add colors to their poems as nature has never ceased to be the spring of inspiration for those who have an eye for hidden beauty and head for revealing it. So-called master of poetry, John Keats was unmistakably among those. An obvious feature of Keats poetry that has often been noted, both by his contemporaries and modern critics, but has not been adequately studied, is his extensive use of floral imagery. It is hard to miss in the early poetry, Endymion and Poems of 1817 poetry is likened to a luxurious bower where the poet can feed at leisure on floral pleasure. 


John Keats was an English romantic poet. He was one of the leading characters of the second generation of the Romantic poets, along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, despite his works having been in publication for only four years before his death from tuberculosis at the age of 25. Although his poems were not generally well received by critics during his lifetime, his reputation grew after his death, and by the end of the 19th century, he had become one of the most beloved of all English poets. He had a significant influence on a diverse range of poets and writers. Jorge Luis Borges stated that his first encounter with Keats’ work was the most significant literary experience of his life.

The poetry of Keats is characterized by sensual imagery, most notably in the series of odes. This is typical of romantic poets, as they aimed to accentuate extreme emotion through an emphasis on natural imagery. He had an innate talent for writing. He compared the writing talent to the leaves of the tree: ‘if poetry comes not as naturally as the Leaves to a tree it had better not come at all’ It is clear from this statement that, he poets talent should be natural and his poems should be alive, like the tree leaves. In other example, Keats shows a deepening, more ambivalent, understanding of how “The Realm of Flora” can be used to speak about human suffering, division, and loss. In The Eve of St. Agnes, Porphyro’s emotions while gaining access to Madeline was described as “…sudden…like a full-blown rose…” While comparing his other literary masterpieces like “Ode to Psyche”, “Lamia”, ‘Sleep and Poetry’ we can analyze natural imagery describing human features.

Materials and Methods

Today his poems and letters are some of the most popular and most analyzed in English literature. Some of the most acclaimed works of Keats are ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, ‘Sleep and Poetry’, and the famous sonnet ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’.

Swinburne wrote in the Encyclopedia Britannica that ‘the Ode to a Nightingale, is one of the final masterpieces of human work in all time and for all ages’. In the twentieth century, Keats remained the muse of poets such as Wilfred Owen, who kept his death date as a day of mourning, Yeats and T. S. Eliot. Critic Helen Vendler stated the odes ‘are a group of works in which the English language find ultimate embodiment’. Bate declared of To Autumn: ‘Each generation has found it one of the most nearly perfect poems in English’ and M. R. Ridley claimed the ode ‘is the most serenely flawless poem in our language”. The life of John Keats was depicted in some films and book. They are: John Keats: His Life and Death, the first major motion picture about the life of Keats, was produced in 1973 by Encyclopedia Britannica, It was directed by John Barnes. John Stride played John Keats and Janina Faye played Fanny Brawne.

The 2009 film Bright Star, written and directed by Jane Campion, focuses on Keats’ relationship with Fanny Brawne. Inspired by the 1997 Keats biography penned by Andrew Motion, it stars Ben Whishaw as Keats and Abbie Cornish as Fanny.

In Dan Wells’s book A Night of Blacker Darkness, John Keats is portrayed in a comedic tone. He is the companion and sidekick of the protagonist.

In Dan Simmons’ book Hyperion, one of the characters is a clone of John Keats, of whom he possesses personality and memories.

In Tim Powers’ book The Stress of Her Regard, John Keats, along with Percy Shelley and Lord Byron, is the victim of a vampire and his gift with language and poetry is a direct consequence of the vampire breed’s attention.

Here is the analysis of John Keats famous poems from the stylistic view point, especially specialized in similes and their reasons.


While stylistically analyzing the poems of John Keats, here we took a glance at his works and try to guess what the author implied by the images of botany.

“Let us commence

Wisper’d the guide, stuttering with joy, even now.”

He spake, and, trembling like an aspen-bough,

Began to tear his scroll in the pieces small,

Uttering the while some mumblings funeral

These lines were taken from Endymion where the author wanted to demonstrate the shivering state of the guide, with the help of natural image. Naturally, aspen tree is distinguished from other representatives of nature with its tendency to shake its leaves when the wind blows. Similarly, in these lines, the guide was trembling because of the joy. Noticeably, the author employed the natural tendency, to bring the character into the life, encouraging readers’ imagination. Besides, comparing human tremble with the movement of branch of aspen tree adds some stylistic color to the poem. In other words, simply the word trembling would not have conveyed emotion. In the book III of this poem, Endymion recalls his days with Cynthia:

Her soft arms were entwining me, and on

Her voice I hung like fruit among green leaves:

Her lips were all my own, and – ah, ripe sheaves

Of happiness!

Endymions’s love towards Cynthia was unconditional. He was pity on dying alone. But then he remembered that he was alone. He had Cynthia. Only some days ago she was with him. Her hand were embracing him. Her voice was so beautiful that, all he could do was just hanging loosely like fruit! This is why the author made use of this simile. He did not just mentioned the phrase “fruit among leaves” but he specially indicated “green leaves”. It can symbolize life, joy and love. The evidence is in the following line: “ripe sheaves Of happiness! ” We can infer that with she Endymion is alive like “like fruit among green leaves”

Another famous poem of John Keats is “Lamia” where the author used a range of floral imagery. For example, the tears of the snake-woman, Lamia, is compared to a flower. The similarity is: at night flowers fold themselves and her tears, as well, were self-disappearing. She was a mysterious woman and it was true for her tears too.

“Her fearful sobs, self-folding like a flower

That faints into itself at evening hour”

In the following lines, there are another simile with flower but not in the same way.

“She felt the warmth, her eyelids open’d bland,

And, like new flowers at morning song of bees,”

Every morning flowers open, it is the beauty of the nature like Lamia. While she was opening her eyelid and revealing those gorgeous eyes behind, she was not less stunning than the opening flower.

These following lines are also taken from the poem “Lamia” wherein the author made a good analogy:

Your soul in mine, and labyrinth you there

Like the hid scent in an unbudden rose.

Soul is very precious part of humanity. Indeed, it is the main determining factor of personality. Snake-turned woman, Lamia, while she was a snake, she had a power to send her spirit wherever she wanted. One of this disembodied journeys, she had come across a youth, called Lucius from Corinth and immediately attracted to him. After all, they met in person and live like a husband and wife. Those aforementioned lines are about their meeting, Lucius thoughts about the spirit of Lamia.Roses are famous not only for their beauty but also for their pleasant aroma. They spread their scent and attract people to themselves. However, the unbudden ones, keep this aroma secret but still it is equally beautiful and pleasant like the soul of Lamia.

One of the most valuable poems of John Keats is The Eve of St. Agnes. Here comes these lines:

Sudden a thought came like a full-blown rose

Flushing his brow, and in his pained heart

Porphyro’s emotion was described as “…like a full-blown rose…” He was struggling with a danger and wants to reach Madeline. Then all of a sudden, an idea appeared and developed in his brain. This process was very quick and natural like the rose in bloom. In this poem, author did not address to the roses only once:

Blinded alike from sunshine and from rain

As though a rose should shut and be a bud again.

The main difference between this example and others is that, here we can see the usage of metaphor unlike other similes. This is how exhausted Madeline tries to take a nap. She was a gorgeous girls even sleeping. In nature, we can see that bud flower and gets bigger and bigger. This is the reverse of this procedure. The flower (Madeline) becomes bud (sleeps) getting smaller and smaller


During the analysis of John Keats poems, is not difficult to notice that, he mostly employed the characters of leaves, flowers and roses in order to express humans, their feature and feeling. That is because human is the part of nature, There is a close connection between humans and the nature. Borrowing some analogies from the botany is something that embellished John Keats poems providing the spirit of lively characters. The poet is also a good observer. He is one of the few writers who could establish a symbiosis with the nature.


As it is earlier mentioned, John is a born-writer. His talent was irresistible and difficult to ignore. His every text is artistic form of consciousness. The realm of his poems is the realm of dreams, art, and visionary where the transient, limited base of reality is imaginatively translated, that we can expect to find deeply hidden truth, clarity and an intensified sense of the world, weather that is heavenly or hellish. In the artistic transcendence of these poetic dream-worlds, a degree of timeless, universal relevance is secured in the messages they convey. Keats celebrates the sublime, creative powers of the human imagination


  1. ‘John Keats:His life and death’
  2. Jorge Luis Borges (2000)This Craft of Verse. Harvard University Press, p.98-101
  3. “Keats, John”. Encyclopedia Britannica, Ninth Edition, Vol.XIV, Cambridge university Press, 1882. P.22-24
  4. Keats’s “Realm of Flora”., Alan Bewell p.71

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