25+ John Keats Poems

Ranked by Poetry Experts

John Keats was a key English Romantic poet born in London in 1795. Often compared to contemporaries like Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, his works have become timeless classics. Despite facing early criticism and having a limited audience during his lifetime, Keats’ influence has endured.

He contracted tuberculosis in 1819 and ultimately succumbed to the disease in Italy in 1821 at the age of 25. His short life left behind a lasting legacy of emotional and vivid poetry.

John Keats

Ode to a Nightingale

by John Keats

‘Ode to a Nightingale,’ written in 1819, is one of John Keats’ six famous odes. It’s the longest, with eight 10-line stanzas, and showcases Keats’ signature style of vivid imagery and emotional depth, exploring themes like beauty and mortality.

The nightingale serves as a central figure. The speaker is captivated by its melodious song and envies its seemingly unburdened existence. The bird's song inspires him to contemplate escaping into the forest to experience the same sense of liberation. He even contemplates the idea of dying there. However, the nightingale eventually departs, shattering the speaker's idyllic vision and leaving him alone and bewildered, questioning the line between reality and illusion.

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains

         My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains

         One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:

La Belle Dame sans Merci

by John Keats

‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’ is a poignant reflection of Keats’ own life and emotions, encapsulating themes of unrequited love, illness, and social barriers.

This must-read ballad tells the tale of a knight enchanted by a mystical woman. Initially, it appears as if his dreams have come true, only for him to awaken alone and disillusioned. More than a mere narrative, the poem delves into the realms of dreams and otherworldly experiences, showcasing Keats' unique approach to storytelling.

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,

Alone and palely loitering?

The sedge has withered from the lake,

And no birds sing.

Ode on a Grecian Urn

by John Keats

‘Ode on a Grecian Urn,’ an ekphrastic poem, is one of John Keats’ “Great Odes of 1819.” “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all,” a line that captures the essence of Keats’ confidence in the power of art.

This renowned piece ranks high among Keats' most popular works. Dedicated to a Greek urn, the poem intricately explores the history depicted on the vase. The speaker grapples with interpreting the images and the artist's intent, delving into the relationship between art, beauty, and truth. The poem ultimately argues that knowledge, gained through beauty, is humanity's greatest asset.

Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,

    Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,

Sylvan historian, who canst thus express

    A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art

by John Keats

‘Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art’ is one of John Keats’ best-loved poems. It uses a star as an image of steadfastness to depict the enduring nature of a lover’s heart.

This is one of Keats’ best-known sonnets. It speaks on one person’s desire to remain in the company of his lover forever. Through the text, Keats touches on the delicacy of human existence. He utilizes images of the stars, and their solitude and steadfastness as a metaphor for how the speaker would like to be to his lover. He is going to be as unmoving and solitary as he needs to be to please her.

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—

         Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night

And watching, with eternal lids apart,

         Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,

On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer

by John Keats

This poem captures John Keats’ awe upon reading George Chapman’s English translation of Homer, likening the experience to discovering “realms of gold.”

In the piece, Keats recalls his first encounter with Chapman's translation of Homer's works. The poet feels as if he has stumbled upon and explored a new world, which he describes as "realms of gold." During this literary journey, he immerses himself in the ancient kingdoms of Troy and Greece and listens to bards singing praises of the god Apollo.

Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,

And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;

Round many western islands have I been

Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.

Ode to Psyche

by John Keats

One of Keats’ lesser-known odes, this piece is a heartfelt dedication to the Greek goddess Psyche, celebrating her as the most beautiful among gods and goddesses.

In this ode, the poet narrates his journey through the forest and his profound admiration for Psyche. Unlike other gods and goddesses who have temples, Psyche has none, as she has not been as widely appreciated. The speaker resolves to devote his life to worshiping her, vowing to build a temple for her in his mind and fill it with "all soft delight."

O Goddess! hear these tuneless numbers, wrung

         By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear,

And pardon that thy secrets should be sung

         Even into thine own soft-conched ear:

To Autumn

by John Keats

‘To Autumn’ stands as one of Keats’ most image-rich and skillful odes, offering a sumptuous description of the fall season.

In this ode, Keats delves into the beauty and fruitfulness of autumn, brought to life by the "maturing sun." The poem is replete with vivid imagery, from blessings and budding fruits to flying insects and birds that elevate the reader. By the end, Keats emphasizes the significance of autumn as a prime subject for poetic exploration.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;

In drear-nighted December

by John Keats

‘In drear-nighted December’ by John Keats describes the way memories of happier and warmer times impact one’s emotions in the coldest hours of December.

Keats delves into the emotional landscape of winter's darkest hours. Utilizing sensory-rich imagery of trees, wind, and brooks, he draws the reader into a vivid experience of both winter's chill and the contrasting warmth of treasured memories. The poem ultimately reflects on the indelible power of human memories and our inability to become emotionally numb.

In drear nighted December, 

   Too happy, happy tree, 

Thy branches ne'er remember 

   Their green felicity—

O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell

by John Keats

‘O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell’ by John Keats is a fourteen-line sonnet that is contained within one block of text. It expresses the speaker’s intention to find somewhere peaceful, in a valley, amongst trees, bees, and deer to live out his days.

This piece is another one of Keats’ most beautifully composed sonnets. It describes how a speaker intends to deal with inventible solitude by escaping to a natural wilderness. Within the text, the speaker has come to the conclusion that there is nothing for him to do but accept the fact that he’s going to be staying with “Solitude.” It is a personified force that accompanies him everywhere he goes. He knows that if he can stay outside, then he will be happy. Yet, he could be happier if there was one other to share his joy with him.

O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,

Let it not be among the jumbled heap

Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,—

Nature’s observatory—whence the dell,

Bards of Passion and of Mirth

by John Keats

‘Bards of Passion and of Mirth’ by John Keats is one of the poet’s early odes. In it, Keats confirms that bards, or authors, have two souls, with one rising to heaven, and the other staying on earth.

'Bards of Passion and of Mirth' is an excellent poem, but it is not considered to be one of Keats' masterpieces. It is an earlier ode of his, and it does not have the same deep, emotional complexity as his more famous odes. However, it is more joyful and fun to read than most of his other odes, which can be heavy and very dark in mood.

    Bards of Passion and of Mirth,  

Ye have left your souls on earth!  

Have ye souls in heaven too,  

Doubled-lived in regions new?  

Explore more poems from John Keats

On the Sea

by John Keats

‘On the Sea’ is a traditional sonnet by John Keats that delves into the sea as a force both musical and enigmatic, capable of lifting spirits and easing mental anguish.

‘On the Sea’ is a traditional sonnet that speaks on the sea as a musical and unknowable force. It can swell to great heights, and bring one down to the deepest depths. Keats shows his fondness for Greek mythology in the text by referencing Hecate, a witch from Greek legends. In the end, the speaker is interested in how the wildness and unpredictability of the sea can ease one’s mental anguish. It is a simple natural pleasure all should take the time to enjoy.

It keeps eternal whisperings around

Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell

Gluts twice ten thousand Caverns, till the spell

A Song About Myself

by John Keats

‘A Song About Myself’ is a joyous poem in which a young boy travels, writes poetry, catches fish, and learns about himself and others. 

There was a naughty boy,

  A naughty boy was he,

He would not stop at home,

  He could not quiet be-

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever (from Endymion)

by John Keats

‘A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever’ is famous as the first book in John Keats’ epic, ‘Endymion.’ It is based on the tale of Endymion, whose beauty was of such joy to Selene that it immortalized him for the rest of his days.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us, and a sleep

Ode on Indolence

by John Keats

‘Ode on Indolence’ is one of the “Great Odes of 1819” written by the second-generation romantic poet John Keats. This poem centers on the concept of a speaker’s indolent thoughts.

One morn before me were three figures seen,

    With bowèd necks, and joinèd hands, side-faced;

And one behind the other stepp’d serene,

    In placid sandals, and in white robes graced;

Ode on Melancholy

by John Keats

‘Ode on Melancholy,’ while not amongst the most lauded of the Odes, is perhaps the most uplifting and hopeful of all of Keat’s Odes. Keats addresses the reader, a sufferer of Melancholy, and tells him not to worry.

No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist

       Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;

Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss'd

       By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;

On Fame

by John Keats

In ‘On Fame’, John Keats illustrates the nature of fame and presents its poetic definition to the readers by using suitable metaphors.

Fame, like a wayward girl, will still be coy

To those who woo her with too slavish knees,

But makes surrender to some thoughtless boy,

And dotes the more upon a heart at ease;

On Seeing the Elgin Marbles

by John Keats

‘On Seeing the Elgin Marbles’ by John Keats is a poem about mortality. The speaker observes the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum and is moved by their power. 

My spirit is too weak—mortality

   Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,

   And each imagined pinnacle and steep

Of godlike hardship tells me I must die

On the Grasshopper and Cricket

by John Keats

The Poetry of earth is never dead:    

  When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,    

  And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run    

From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;

On the Sonnet

by John Keats

If by dull rhymes our English must be chain’d,

And, like Andromeda, the Sonnet sweet

Fetter’d, in spite of pained loveliness;

Let us find out, if we must be constrain’d,

The Eve of St. Agnes

by John Keats

‘The Eve of St. Agnes’ by John Keats is a celebration of an idealized love between two beautiful and heroic characters. it’s written in Spenserian.

St. Agnes' Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!

The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;

The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass,

And silent was the flock in woolly fold:

To Hope

by John Keats

‘To Hope’ by John Keats depicts the power and influence that Hope, as a personified force sent by God, can have on a struggling world.

When by my solitary hearth I sit,

And hateful thoughts enwrap my soul in gloom;

When no fair dreams before my "mind's eye" flit,

And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;

To one who has been long in city pent

by John Keats

To one who has been long in city pent,

         'Tis very sweet to look into the fair

         And open face of heaven,—to breathe a prayer

Full in the smile of the blue firmament.

To Sleep

by John Keats

O soft embalmer of the still midnight,

      Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,

Our gloom-pleas'd eyes, embower'd from the light,

      Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:

To The Nile

by John Keats

Son of the old Moon-mountains African!

Chief of the Pyramid and Crocodile!

We call thee fruitful, and that very while

A desert fills our seeing's inward span:

When I have Fears that I may Cease to Be

by John Keats

John Keats, the poet of ‘When I have Fears that I may Cease to Be’, was obsessed with death. In a certain way, his obsession with death is not completely surprising at all.

When I have fears that I may cease to be

  Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,

Before high piled books, in charact’ry, 

  Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain; 

You say you love; but with a voice

by John Keats

‘You say you love; but with a voice’ also known by the refrain, “O love me truly!” deals with a speaker’s physical passion for his beloved. It is believed to be John Keats’ earliest love poem.

You say you love ; but with a voice

Chaster than a nun's, who singeth

The soft Vespers to herself

While the chime-bell ringeth-

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