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Study Questions for poems by John Keats
ode, oxymoron, paradox, personification, thanatos
Where did John Keats grow up, unlike so many other Romantic
poets? How did John Keats die?
Lecture or Handouts:
How does John Keats' concern for death appear in his poems?
Identify the following characters and
A Grecian Urn, the beautiful woman
Reading Questions for "When
I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be."
- What does the title of this poem refer to?
- What is the speaker talking about when
he refers to his pen gleaning his "teeming brain?"
- Explain the comparison between piles of books and garners
holding stores of grain.
- What figure of speech is used in line 5 regarding the
- What are "huge cloudy symbols of a high romance"?
- What does the speaker do when he realizes
he will never look upon "thee" more? What does "thee" possibly
refer to? (come up with two or three answers here)
Questions for "Ode on a Grecian Urn."
- What is the poet examining in the first stanza?
- What scenes or images are depicted on the urn?
- In stanza two, the poet sees an image of musicians
and a boy chasing a girl. In lines 11-14, what paradox
or oxymoron does the poet perceive in looking at images
- The speaker notes that the boy chasing the girl will
never be able to catch her to give her a kiss, but what
comforting thought does he offer the boy?
- In stanza three, what will never happen to the painted
- What biographical circumstance about John Keats' own
life might be creeping into the poem in lines 29-30?
- What religious ritual is depicted on the urn in stanza
- In stanza four, the poet looks at the crowd of people
gathered for the religious rite, and he wonders about
where they come from. What image does the poet evoke
for this town? What is the town like? Note that the poet
has now moved beyond what's actually depicted on the
urn to imagine a scene the artist never painted on it.
Why does Keats include this?
- What does the word "brede" mean in the last stanza?
Why is the urn "overwrought"?
- Why does the poet address the urn as a "cold pastoral"?
- The poet imagines in the future his own generation
dead and gone, but what does he say will remain for future
- Why is the urn a "friend to man"?
- The urn declares that "Beauty is truth, truth beauty."
What does the urn mean? Do you agree that truth is beautiful?
Or that beautiful things are somehow true? Is there no
such thing as a beautiful lie?
- The poet doesn't refer to the singular "you" in the
last few lines, but rather the plural "ye." To whom is
the personified urn speaking if not to the poet?
- Do you agree when the urn says that this statement
is all humanity knows on earth? Do you agree when the
urn says this is all we need to know?
Reading Questions for "La Belle Dame Sans
- What does the French title of this
poem mean when translated into English?
- In the beginning of the poem, the speaker
has encountered a knight. What does this knight look
like in stanza one and stanza three?
- The third and fourth line describes
the setting of the poem. Where are the speaker and
the knight standing? What season is it? What is the
condition of nature in this time and place?
- After you've read the entire poem,
come back to look at lines 3-8. Why (symbolically)
should this be the setting in terms of time and place?
- In stanza four, we hear the knight's
response to the speaker's questions. What did the Knight
encounter in the meads (meadows)? What
this creature look like?
- In stanza five, what gifts did the
knight make for this creature? How did this creature
look at the knight afterward, and what sounds did the
- In stanza seven, what foods did the
creature give the knight?
- Where did the creature lead the knight
in stanza eight? How many times did the knight kiss
her on the eyelids?
- When the knight falls asleep, what
does he see in a nightmare?
- Who are all these pale kings, princes,
and warriors? (The poem never tells us explicitly,
but what do we suspect?)
- The knight had fallen asleep in an
"elfin grot" with the maiden, but where does he awaken?
Why symbolically is this location "cold"?
- Point out any three images of death
in the poem.
Passages for Identification: Be able
to explain who wrote this passages, what poem the passage
come from, and briefly explain
their significance, context, or importance in the work:
A. And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love!—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.
B. O WHAT can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.
C: She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
“I love thee true.”
D: I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—“La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!”
E: Thou still unravished 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
F. Heard melodies are sweet, but tohs unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not tot he sensusal ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone.
G. Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in misdst of other woe
Than ours, a friend a to man, to whom thou say'st,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," --that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.