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English Romantic lyric poet John Keats was dedicated to the perfection of poetry marked by vivid imagery that expressed a philosophy through classical legend.
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Keats, who around this time fell in love with a woman named Fanny Brawne, continued to write. He'd proven prolific for much of the past year. His work included his first Shakespearean sonnet, "When I have fears that I may cease to be," which was published in January 1818.
Two months later, Keats published "Isabella," a poem that tells the story of a woman who falls in love with a man beneath her social standing,
instead of the man her family has chosen her to marry. The work was based on a story from Italian poet Giovanni Boccaccio, and it's one Keats himself would grow to dislike.
His work also included the beautiful "To Autumn," a sensuous work published in 1820 that describes ripening fruit, sleepy workers, and a maturing sun. The poem, and others, demonstrated a style Keats himself had crafted all his own, one that was filled with more sensualities than any contemporary Romantic poetry.
Keats' writing also revolved around a poem he called "Hyperion," an ambitious Romantic piece inspired by Greek myth that told the story of the Titans' despondency after their losses to the Olympians.
But the death of Keats' brother halted his writing. He finally returned to the work in late 1819, rewriting his unfinished poem with a new title, "The Fall of Hyperion," which would go unpublished until more than three decades after Keats' death.
This, of course, speaks to the small audience for Keats' poetry during his lifetime. In all, the poet published three volumes of poetry during his life but managed to sell just a combined 200 copies of his work by the time of his death in 1821. His third and final volume of poetry, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems, was published in July 1820.
Only with the help of his friends, who pushed hard to secure Keats' legacy, and the work and style of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom during the latter half of the 19th century, did Keats' stock rise considerably.
In 1819 Keats contracted tuberculosis. His health deteriorated quickly. Soon after his last volume of poetry was published, he ventured off to Italy with his close friend, the painter Joseph Severn, on the advice of his doctor, who had told him he needed to be in a warmer climate for the winter.
The trip marked the end of his romance with Fanny Brawne. His health issues and his own dreams of becoming a successful writer had stifled their chances of ever getting married.
Keats arrived in Rome in November of that year and for a brief time started to feel better. But within a month, he was back in bed, suffering from a high temperature. The last few months of his life proved particularly painful for the poet.
His doctor in Rome placed Keats on a strict diet that consisted of a single anchovy and a piece of bread per day in order to limit the flow of blood to the stomach. He also induced heavy bleeding, resulting in Keats suffering from both a lack of oxygen and a lack of food.
Keats' agony was so severe that at one point he pressed his doctor and asked him, "How long is this posthumous existence of mine to go on?"
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