A Thing of Beauty Summary in English by John Keats

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A Thing of Beauty Summary in English by John Keats

A Thing of Beauty Poem by John Keats About the Poet

John Keats (31 October, 1795 – 23 February, 1821) was an English Romantic poet. He was one of the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets along with Lord Byron and P. B. Shelley, ; despite his work having been in publication for only four years before his death.

Although his poems were not generally well received by critics during his lifetime, his reputation grew after his death. So 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.

The poetry of Keats is characterised by sensual imagery, most notably in the series of odes. Today, his poems and letters are some of the most popular and most analysed in English literature. His notable works are: To autumn; Ode to a nightingale; On first looking into Chapman’s Homer; Ode on a Grecian urn.

Poet Name John Keats
Born 31 October 1795, Moorgate, City of London, United Kingdom
Died 23 February 1821, Rome, Italy
Poems Ode to a Nightingale, Ode on a Grecian Urn, To Autumn
Movies Arterial
A Thing of Beauty Summary by John Keats
A Thing of Beauty Summary by John Keats

A Thing of Beauty Introduction to the Poem

A British Romantic poet, John Keats (1795-1821), published his first epic poem, Endymion in 1818. It is a narrative about the relationship between a Goddess and her human lover. The poem is based on the Greek myth of Endymion, the shepherd who falls in love with the moon Goddess, Selene, whom the poet renames ‘Cynthia’. This extract, ‘A Thing of Beauty’ talks of how beautiful things give us pleasure and alleviate suffering and sorrow. The epic poem, ‘Endymion’ begins famously with the line, ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’ (first stanza).

A Thing of Beauty Theme

The very opening line of the poem, ‘A Thing of Beauty…. ‘ openly recites the very theme of the poem. Any beautiful object is always treasured in our mind because it provides us eternal and everlasting joy. The happiness that anything beautiful provides, never fades into nothingness but multiplies manifold whenever it returns to our mind.

A Thing of Beauty Summary in English

This poem presents the reader with the views of Keats on beauty and its value, and its ‘ importance to humans. Beauty, in whatever form it may be found, is an eternal joy to humans, because it offers humans the constant opportunity to reflect on that beauty, which stands in such stark contrast to the dejection, monotony and ugliness of our everyday lives.

In spite of all the difficulties and the sufferings that humans face, beauty has the ability to produce happiness and temporarily shift the burdens that humans bear.

Keats therefore, establishes that in his view of the world, life for humans consists of unremitting struggles and difficulties, and it is only beauty in its various guises that is able to shift those trials and at least temporarily produce happiness. The poem concludes with a list of things that constitute “beauty” for Keats, which include both physical objects which are examples of natural beauty such as daffodils, and also beauty that can be found in art, such as “the lovely tales we have heard or read”.

All of these forms of beauty act as “an endless fountain of immortal drink”, allowing humans to forget bleak reality and experience joy. This poem therefore, focuses on the theme of happiness and how it can be experienced. It inspires us and gives us the courage to fight against all odds.

A Thing of Beauty Summary Reference-to-Context Questions

Read the extracts given below and answer the questions that follow.

1. A thing of beauty is a joy forever
Its loveliness increases, it will never
Pass into nothingness; but will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

a. Describe the kind of joy a beautiful thing provides.
Answer:
Anything that is beautiful provides us an unending, everlasting and eternal joy. It leaves an indelible imprint on our heart and soul. We love to relive the memories of that joyous experience whenever it flashes back in our mind.

b. Explain, ‘its loveliness increases’.
Answer:
The joy that we experience on seeing a beautiful object, multiplies whenever we remember it. Similarly, the loveliness of anything beautiful multiplies each time we visualise it in our thoughts. Compared to this, things which do not give us happiness only remain for a short while, and then disappear forever.

c. Why does a thing of beauty not pass into ‘nothingness’?
Answer:
A thing, the memory of which provides us eternal joy, will never fade away. The loveliness of a beautiful object does not fade away or die out because it leaves an indelible imprint on our heart and soul.

d. How can we get refreshed amidst beauty?
Answer:
The beautiful things give us peace like a quiet bower, a pleasant shady place providing us peaceful sleep, sweet dreams and good health and therefore, refreshes us.

2. Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching:

a. Explain, ‘wreathing a flowery band to bind us to the earth’.
Answer:
Keats feels that every morning we weave a beautiful string of flowers or memories which help us support ourselves and motivate us to live our life to the fullest, instead of burdening our lives with pain and suffering.

b. Why is there an ‘inhuman dearth of noble natures’?
Answer:
In these days, there are few people who are noble in character and who rise above petty differences by being magnanimous and generous. There is a dearth of such noble souls on our earth; as man is selfish and self-centred.

c. What are ‘unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways’?
Answer:
The unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways refer to the trials and tribulations of life, the selfish and jealous methods we adopt to achieve our goals.

d. Explain, ‘spite of despondence’.
Answer:
It means despite the existence of gloom and darkness around.

3. … yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old, and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms;
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;

a. What images of beauty has the poet referred to?
Answer:
The poet appreciates the simplicity and serenity of beauty through the image of the sun, the moon, the trees, the sheep, the daffodils, the green pastures, the livid streams, and a fair bloom of musk-roses.

b. How is ‘tree’ a perfect example of a beautiful thing?
Answer:
The tree bears the heat of the sun to give shade and coolness to anyone who seeks shade and rest under its branches. Its greatness is a degree greater because it gives shade not only to the mighty ones, but also to the simplest of the animals, such as sheep.

c. What does ‘simple sheep’ symbolise?
Answer:
Sheep and lamb are envisioned as symbols of innocence and serene beauty. Jesus Christ was a shepherd and was surrounded by his flock of sheep, his followers. Keats has made special reference to the sheep as symbols of divine beauty.

d. Explain, ‘the green world they live in’.
Answer:
Beauty of nature is at its best in the lush green surroundings of meadows and pastures which provide support to all plants and animals. It is in this green world that all living creatures find true happiness and joy.

4. All lovely tales that we have heard or read;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

a. What does Keats mean by ‘an endless fountain of immortal drink’?
Answer:
Beauty, according to Keats, is a perennial source of motivation and inspiration. He considers it an endless fountain from which mankind can drink the elixir of life.

b. Explain, ‘pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink’.
Answer:
Beauty, Keats says, has been showered upon us from the heaven by God as the greatest gift to man. This eternal and everlasting beauty is a perennial source of gaiety, which is eternal and everlasting.

c. Which poetic device is used in the 2nd line of the extract?
Answer:
hyperbole e.g., ‘endless fountain’

d. Which lovely tales does the poet speak of?
Answer:
The motivational stories of martyrs are the ‘lovely tales’ that the poet speaks of.


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