A Thing of Beauty is A Joy Forever
Poetry is dear to each one of us. Isn’t it?
Wait! Don’t you like songs? Those romantic melodies, sensual or even gloomy ones. They all consist of poetry itself. That means you must have come across poetry.
Some essential elements that we witness in poetry consist of flowers, rivers, clouds, hills, forests, lovers, and a thing of beauty that is a joy forever. Remember?
Under the clear sky, you stand straight and unfold your arms in such a way that makes you appreciate the beauty around you, and you sing, a thing of beauty is a joy forever… and the rest?
Although it is now used as a proverb due to its popularity, that is not it. With singing a thing of beauty… you come across the pictures of eternal bliss, nature, heaven, and Keats. You got it!
A Little Introduction about Keats!
A romantic poet, you may say, because of his imaginative work in his fantasy world. He emerged from an era that has famously been called Romanticism.
Romanticism emerged in the late 18th century till the mid 19th century, it was a movement that came after the movement of rationalism, which only believed in intellect and facts.
But Romanticism gave a breakthrough to many new poets, and John Keats did not believe in conceptual ideas but a vision that poetry can’t be free of imagery and sensory details.
On his short stay in this world (as he died at 25 from tuberculosis), he gave us many gems in the form of poetry, and his focus was on beauty and truth being a romantic poet.
Even though his most famous and longest poem was “Ode to a Nightingale”, Endymion got acknowledged for one thing despite harsh criticism.
That’s “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
You got it right, and this is the first line of the poem Endymion, published in 1818 and is dedicated to Keats’s and other romanticists’ ideal Thomas Chatterton.
How are John Keats and Thomas Chatterton Related to Each Other?
Thomas Chatterton died in 1770 at the age of 17, and rumor has it that he committed suicide due to neglect and rejection of his work in a seemingly practical era of rationalism.
His work of imagination became an inspiration for the poets of Romanticism and, obviously, for Keats.
Keats dedicated his poem Endymion to his ideal Chatterton.
Making of A Thing of Beauty…
It is not a separate poem but part of a larger poem, Endymion, consisting of the first 24 lines of the first book.
In Endymion, Keats described the original Greek myth of Endymion, and the first part of the first book where the line “a thing of beauty is…” resides is a dream sequence.
Now, these lines are more popular than the poem itself.
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness.”
How Are These Lines Related to Keats’s Life?
We will have to bounce back to Keats’s life journey to understand that. What kind of a man was he, and how did he spend his life?
He was born into the era of the Romanticism movement. However, his life was gloomy because, for him, the beauty of life can only be found in the imagination.
Plus, he was from a middle-class family and led a miserable life due to his and his family members’ illness.
His work got widely recognized only after his death at the young age of 25.
He was a man of vibrant imagination. He used to run off to his fantasy world, where he could find peace of mind.
He was a poet of nature, and various elements of nature can be found in his different poems, which appeal to the senses.
He believed that poetry and art arouse your senses and take you to other worlds of romance.
How a thing of beauty proves to be joyful can be understood by his most prominent yet controversial theory of truth equals beauty and beauty equals the truth.
From ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn,’ these lines seem to point out that just as truth provides us comfort and then joy, beauty being equal to truth gives pleasure to us.
Analysis of the Poem (An excerpt from the Poem Endymion)
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness, but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and asleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”
Poet describes that a beautiful thing can never fail to give pleasure to the senses. As beauty is a subjective concept, its definition is different for everyone. For Keats, beauty is present everywhere and in every being.
Everything becomes beautiful where imagination lies. Thus, it provides joy to us wherever we go because it is in our imagination.
It tends to increase as imagination unfolds itself but never decreases. Have a look at nature or trees in specific, for instance.
They always have something to offer you. Growing from a seed to a tree, its loveliness increases, and it never stops giving us despite its harsh conditions.
As we become more stressed day after day, in comparison to us, the nature of beauty in everything grows more appealing to our senses.
The beauty within us can only increase once we become aware of it.
That thing of beauty will always offer us comfort, a quiet sleep full of sweet dreams, fresh air to breathe, shade to rest, and health.
These lines specifically refer to a tree providing all the above qualities.
Nothingness: A place of emptiness
Bower: Shade of the tree
“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: yes, in spite of all,”
The flowery band refers to the positivity or hope we should have within us. Poet asks, despite all the evil motives that we carry within us that have made us hopeless, are we wreathing positivity with every coming day?
Because with that positivity only, we are going to survive on this earth. As with the increasing inhumanity of the people, it will be harder to live and find our purposes.
Morrow: Next day
Dearth: Absence of something
“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:”
Poet envisions that as we become gloomy and desperate with each coming day, some beautiful things will be there for our rescue. It can be any poetry, scenery, or our beautiful soul either. It will be there to enlighten us, to show us the right path.
Poet has given examples of the things that can serve as our saviors, such as the sun and the moon.
In the next line, the poet states that the trees are there to give shade or a place of comfort for the sheep. Sheep can also be referred to as innocent and needy people.
The next line shows the poet narrating the daffodils, which are doing their part to give pleasure to the senses, like trees.
Then the river is there to provide clean water to passersby by covering itself with a cooling layer in the hot season.
Amid the forest blossom, a sprinkling of fair musk rose’, fills the air with its sweet smell.
Poet suggests that all of these things of nature are present to bring positivity. They are always present around us, and we will always have some form of beauty to give us comfort.
Sprouting a shady boon: Offering shelter to those in need.
Simple sheep: Innocent people
Covert: Secret or hidden
“And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.”
Here the poet goes on to describe the ‘grandeur of the dooms’ which means greatness of the day of death of those who left a legacy for the coming generation.
The poet says their glorious deaths are equal to the thing of beauty that never passes into nothingness.
‘Mighty dead’ here has a special significance. The person to whom Keats is referring here is Thomas Chatterton.
As it is known from the sources that Keats dedicated this poem to the late poet Chatterton who left the world with his work as an inspiration for the poets like Keats.
From the next line, it is inferred that those ‘lovely tales’ of the ‘mighty dead’ are and will always be the source of inspiration for us. That means those tales will have the same effect as the thing of beauty whose loveliness always increases.
Those tales as a thing of beauty will come from the ‘endless fountain’ of heaven and will always be immortal.
The immortal drink or inspiration will straightly come from the heaven where the mighty dead rest.
Doom: The day where everything will end.
Mighty dead: Great people who have lost their lives.
Brink: border or edge of something.
How is “A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever” Related to Our Lives?
The concept of beauty is relevant to our lives now. We human beings have been used to seeing the negativity in everything and ignoring the beauty.
Even we have our limited definitions of what is beautiful. Keats’s theory is that everything which is present or will be in the future is beautiful.
The thing that crosses the imagination is beautiful too. We must be able to remove ‘the pall from our dark spirits’ to see the loveliness of things.
Today we are miserable because we have closed the doors of imagination and truth which offers beauty.
With awareness, we can approach the beauty around us and get free of sadness.
1. What is a thing of beauty?
Answer. A thing of beauty according to John Keats is a constant source of joy and beautiful things have no specific traits, but everything is beautiful.
2. How is a thing of beauty a joy forever?
Answer. It is a joy because it never stops passing its beauty and comfort to its viewers. It is endless and keeps growing.
3. Who wrote the poem “a thing of beauty is a joy forever”?
Answer. John Keats, an English romantic poet wrote the poem “a thing of beauty…”.
4. What’s the meaning of the proverb “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”?
Answer. It is the first line of Keats’s poem, popularly being used as a proverb. It means a beautiful thing, like truth, is always there for us which continuously gives joy to all beings and never reduces but multiplies every time.
5. When did Keats’s poem publish?
Answer. John Keats’s poem Endymion which has its excerpt ‘a thing of beauty’ got published in the year 1818.
6. Why did Keats describe beauty as a constant source of joy?
Answer. Keats believed in the power of imagination and how it can create beautiful things every time it comes across with anything that seems plain to human intellect.
Keats had the opinion that imagination creates truth which can be seen in the beauty of things and truth always gives comfort and joy.
7. When did Keats die?
Answer. Keats died in the year 1821, after three years of publishing Endymion.
8. What’s the message of the line “it never passes into nothingness”?
Answer. The thing of beauty has endless joy and solace to offer each being around it. It never runs out of joy.
I hope this poem analysis was worth a read, and you thoroughly enjoyed Keat’s perception of “a thing of beauty.”
With this, we can surely say that beauty indeed lies in the eyes of the beholder.
So, what’s your definition of beauty? Do tell us.