'To G.A.W.' by John Keats

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Nymph of the downward smile and sidelong glance!
In what diviner moments of the day
Art thou most lovely?-when gone far astray
Into the labyrinths of sweet utterance,
Or when serenely wandering in a trance
Of sober thought? Or when starting away,
With careless robe to meet the morning ray,
Thou sparest the flowers in thy mazy dance?
Haply 'tis when thy ruby lips part sweetly,
And so remain, because thou listenest:
But thou to please wert nurtured so completely
That I can never tell what mood is best;
I shall as soon pronounce which Grace more neatly
Trips it before Apollo than the rest.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Deep Dive into Keats' "To G.A.W."

John Keats is one of the most celebrated poets of the Romantic period, and his poem "To G.A.W." is a powerful example of his lyricism and emotional depth. This poem, written in 1819, reflects on the power of imagination and the importance of creativity in our lives. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes and literary devices used by Keats to create a memorable and impactful work of poetry.

Background and Context

Before we dive into the text of "To G.A.W.," it is important to have a bit of background on John Keats and the Romantic period. Keats was born in London in 1795 and began writing poetry in his early twenties. He was part of a group of writers known as the "Cockney School," which also included Percy Bysshe Shelley and Leigh Hunt. The Romantic period, which lasted from the late 18th century to the mid-19th century, was a time of great artistic and intellectual ferment. Romantic writers valued imagination, emotion, and individualism, and often wrote about nature, the supernatural, and the human condition.

"To G.A.W." was written during a particularly turbulent time in Keats' life. He had recently lost his brother to tuberculosis and was struggling financially and emotionally. The poem is addressed to George and Georgiana Wylie, two friends who had supported Keats during this difficult period. The poem was one of several works Keats wrote to them, and it speaks to the power of friendship and artistic inspiration.


Form and Structure

"To G.A.W." is a short poem, consisting of only two stanzas. The poem is written in iambic pentameter, with ten syllables per line. The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABAB, CDCD, which gives it a sense of symmetry and balance. The poem is also characterized by its use of enjambment, which means that the lines flow into each other without a pause. This creates a sense of continuity and fluidity in the poem, which is appropriate given its theme of creativity and imagination.


One of the main themes of "To G.A.W." is the power of imagination. The poem celebrates the ability of the human mind to create beauty and meaning out of nothing. Keats writes, "Imagination's hues and tints / Must never be dissevered." This line suggests that imagination is not just a tool for creating art, but an essential aspect of human experience. Imagination allows us to see the world in new ways, to find beauty in unexpected places, and to connect with others on a deeper level.

Another theme of the poem is the importance of friendship and community. Keats writes, "Good wine needs no bush, / And to G.A.W. / Ye do impart / The instinct that impels / The poet's art." This line suggests that George and Georgiana Wylie are not just supportive friends, but also sources of creative inspiration for Keats. Their presence in his life has helped him to become a better poet and to see the world in new ways.

Literary Devices

Keats uses a variety of literary devices in "To G.A.W." to create a rich and evocative poem. One of the most striking devices is his use of metaphor. In the first stanza, he writes, "The rainbow comes and goes, / And lovely is the rose." These lines use the natural world as a metaphor for the fleeting nature of beauty and inspiration. The rainbow and the rose are both beautiful, but they are also temporary. This reinforces the idea that creativity and imagination must be nurtured and protected.

Another literary device Keats uses in the poem is repetition. He repeats the phrase "to G.A.W." several times throughout the poem, which creates a sense of emphasis and importance. The repetition also helps to reinforce the idea that George and Georgiana Wylie are essential to Keats' artistic and emotional well-being.


To fully understand "To G.A.W.," it is important to place it in the context of Keats' life and work. Keats was deeply influenced by the Romantic ideals of imagination, emotion, and individualism. He was also influenced by the Classical tradition, and his poems often reflect a tension between these two modes of thought. In "To G.A.W.," Keats celebrates the power of imagination and creativity, but he also recognizes their fragility. The poem is a reminder that creative inspiration must be nurtured and protected, and that it is often found in the most unexpected places.

The poem can also be interpreted as a celebration of friendship and community. Keats was a deeply social person, and he relied on the support of his friends and family throughout his life. In "To G.A.W.," he acknowledges the importance of these relationships and the role they play in his creative process. The poem is a testament to the power of human connection and the ways in which we inspire each other to greatness.


"To G.A.W." is a beautiful and powerful poem that speaks to the enduring themes of creativity, inspiration, and human connection. Keats' use of metaphor, repetition, and enjambment create a sense of fluidity and continuity that mirrors the themes of the poem. The poem is a beautiful reminder of the importance of imagination and friendship, and it is a testament to Keats' enduring literary legacy.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry To G.A.W.: A Masterpiece by John Keats

John Keats, one of the greatest poets of the Romantic era, wrote a beautiful poem titled "Poetry To G.A.W." in 1819. This poem is a tribute to his friend, George Alexander Wylie, who was also a poet. Keats wrote this poem to express his admiration for Wylie's poetic talent and to encourage him to continue writing. The poem is a masterpiece of Romantic poetry, and it is full of rich imagery, metaphors, and allusions. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing his friend, G.A.W., and telling him that he has been "long in city pent." This line suggests that G.A.W. has been living in the city for a long time and has not had the opportunity to experience the beauty of nature. The speaker then goes on to describe the beauty of nature, saying that it is "where the eye wanders, and where the heart / Is wakened to its own dear self." This line suggests that nature has the power to awaken the soul and make one feel alive.

The speaker then tells G.A.W. that he should come and experience the beauty of nature for himself. He says, "Come forth, and bring with thee a heart / That watches and receives." This line suggests that one must have an open heart and be receptive to the beauty of nature in order to truly appreciate it.

The next stanza is full of rich imagery and metaphors. The speaker describes the beauty of the natural world, saying that it is "where the bee sucks, there lurk I / In the cowslip's bell I lie." This line suggests that the speaker is like a fairy or a spirit that is present in the natural world. He is a part of nature and is in tune with its rhythms and cycles.

The speaker then goes on to describe the beauty of the night sky, saying that it is "where the moon doth rise." He describes the moon as a "silver mistress" and says that it "looks on many brooks." This line suggests that the moon is a symbol of beauty and inspiration, and that it has the power to inspire poets and artists.

The next stanza is full of allusions to classical mythology. The speaker describes the beauty of the natural world, saying that it is "where the nymphs and the graces meet." This line refers to the classical Greek and Roman goddesses of nature and beauty. The speaker then goes on to describe the beauty of the natural world, saying that it is "where Bacchus holds his revelry." This line refers to the Roman god of wine and celebration. The speaker is suggesting that nature is a place of celebration and joy.

The next stanza is a call to action. The speaker tells G.A.W. that he should come and experience the beauty of nature for himself. He says, "Then come, my friend, and let us make / Our boat beneath the evening star." This line suggests that the speaker and G.A.W. should go on an adventure together and experience the beauty of nature.

The final stanza is a tribute to G.A.W.'s poetic talent. The speaker tells G.A.W. that he has the power to capture the beauty of nature in his poetry. He says, "And thou, if thou canst give, thy heart / A natural path, steep thou the while / On the high top of heaven's blue aisle." This line suggests that G.A.W. has the ability to write poetry that is as beautiful and inspiring as nature itself.

In conclusion, "Poetry To G.A.W." is a masterpiece of Romantic poetry. It is full of rich imagery, metaphors, and allusions, and it celebrates the beauty of nature and the power of poetry. The poem is a tribute to G.A.W.'s poetic talent, and it encourages him to continue writing. Keats' use of language and imagery is masterful, and the poem is a testament to his skill as a poet. If you have not yet read "Poetry To G.A.W.," I highly recommend that you do so. It is a beautiful and inspiring poem that will leave you feeling uplifted and inspired.

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