Edited by John Barnard
Introduced by Andrew Motion
Illustrated by Simon Brett
A former Poet Laureate pays tribute to Keats’s tremendous powers of expression as he introduces this collection of impassioned poems. Reissued in a new format.
‘I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest.’ Within three years of writing these words, John Keats was dead. Consumption claimed him in 1821, at the age of just 25, but he left a body of work which would have been remarkable for a man three times his age, and which, in its staggering maturity, drew on the breadth of human emotion.
Simon Brett is one of the leading wood-engravers of the past half-century. He has illustrated several Folio books, including Jane Eyre and Legends of the Grail. In this edition, which is adapted from the 2001 ‘Folio Poets’ volume, his engravings are an enchanting accompaniment to Keats’s verse.
‘Keats is exemplary: a great liberal spirit, as well as a great poet’
His verse is among the most seductive in English literature and many of his couplets – ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know’ – continue to enchant and tantalise readers to this day. Most of Keats’s major poems date from an extraordinary burst of creativity in 1819, and these are all included in this collection: ‘The Eve of St Agnes’, ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’, ‘The Fall of Hyperion, A Dream’, ‘Lamia’ and the famous lyrics ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ and ‘To Autumn’. The intensity of Keats’s meditations on nature, art, mortality and love, and the way they emerged from the briefest of lives, has made Keats a leading figure of the Romantic movement. As Andrew Motion, former Poet Laureate, writes in his fascinating introduction: ‘The courage and cleverness of Keats in developing these ideas is deeply impressive. The capture of them in poems is not much short of miraculous.’
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