'Epistle To My Brother George' by John Keats

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August, 1816Full many a dreary hour have I past,
My brain bewildered, and my mind o'ercast
With heaviness; in seasons when I've thought
No spherey strains by me could e'er be caught
From the blue dome, though I to dimness gaze
On the far depth where sheeted lightning plays;
Or, on the wavy grass outstretched supinely,
Pry 'mong the stars, to strive to think divinely:
That I should never hear Apollo's song,
Though feathery clouds were floating all along
The purple west, and, two bright streaks between,
The golden lyre itself were dimly seen:
That the still murmur of the honey bee
Would never teach a rural song to me:
That the bright glance from beauty's eyelids slanting
Would never make a lay of mine enchanting,
Or warm my breast with ardour to unfold
Some tale of love and arms in time of old.But there are times, when those that love the bay,
Fly from all sorrowing far, far away;
A sudden glow comes on them, nought they see
In water, earth, or air, but poesy.
It has been said, dear George, and true I hold it,
(For knightly Spenser to Libertas told it,)
That when a Poet is in such a trance,
In air her sees white coursers paw, and prance,
Bestridden of gay knights, in gay apparel,
Who at each other tilt in playful quarrel,
And what we, ignorantly, sheet-lightning call,
Is the swift opening of their wide portal,
When the bright warder blows his trumpet clear,
Whose tones reach nought on earth but Poet's ear.
When these enchanted portals open wide,
And through the light the horsemen swiftly glide,
The Poet's eye can reach those golden halls,
And view the glory of their festivals:
Their ladies fair, that in the distance seem
Fit for the silv'ring of a seraph's dream;
Their rich brimmed goblets, that incessant run
Like the bright spots that move about the sun;
And, when upheld, the wine from each bright jar
Pours with the lustre of a falling star.
Yet further off, are dimly seen their bowers,
Of which, no mortal eye can reach the flowers;
And 'tis right just, for well Apollo knows
'Twould make the Poet quarrel with the rose.
All that's revealed from that far seat of blisses
Is the clear fountains' interchanging kisses,
As gracefully descending, light and thin,
Like silver streaks across a dolphin's fin,
When he upswimmeth from the coral caves,
And sports with half his tail above the waves.These wonders strange he sees, and many more,
Whose head is pregnant with poetic lore.
Should he upon an evening ramble fare
With forehead to the soothing breezes bare,
Would he nought see but the dark, silent blue
With all its diamonds trembling through and through?
Or the coy moon, when in the waviness
Of whitest clouds she does her beauty dress,
And staidly paces higher up, and higher,
Like a sweet nun in holy-day attire?
Ah, yes! much more would start into his sight-The revelries and mysteries of night:
And should I ever see them, I will tell you
Such tales as needs must with amazement spell you.These are the living pleasures of the bard:
But richer far posterity's reward.
What does he murmur with his latest breath,
While his proud eye looks though the film of death?
"What though I leave this dull and earthly mould,
Yet shall my spirit lofty converse hold
With after times.-The patriot shall feel
My stern alarum, and unsheath his steel;
Or, in the senate thunder out my numbers
To startle princes from their easy slumbers.
The sage will mingle with each moral theme
My happy thoughts sententious; he will teem
With lofty periods when my verses fire him,
And then I'll stoop from heaven to inspire him.
Lays have I left of such a dear delight
That maids will sing them on their bridal night.
Gay villagers, upon a morn of May,
When they have tired their gentle limbs with play
And formed a snowy circle on the grass,
And placed in midst of all that lovely lass
Who chosen is their queen,-with her fine head
Crowned with flowers purple, white, and red:
For there the lily, and the musk-rose, sighing,
Are emblems true of hapless lovers dying:
Between her breasts, that never yet felt trouble,
A bunch of violets full blown, and double,
Serenely sleep:-she from a casket takes
A little book,-and then a joy awakes
About each youthful heart,-with stifled cries,
And rubbing of white hands, and sparkling eyes:
For she's to read a tale of hopes, and fears;
One that I fostered in my youthful years:
The pearls, that on each glist'ning circlet sleep,
Must ever and anon with silent creep,
Lured by the innocent dimples. To sweet rest
Shall the dear babe, upon its mother's breast,
Be lulled with songs of mine. Fair world, adieu!
Thy dales, and hills, are fading from my view:
Swiftly I mount, upon wide spreading pinions,
Far from the narrow bound of thy dominions.
Full joy I feel, while thus I cleave the air,
That my soft verse will charm thy daughters fair,
And warm thy sons!" Ah, my dear friend and brother,
Could I, at once, my mad ambition smother,
For tasting joys like these, sure I should be
Happier, and dearer to society.
At times, 'tis true, I've felt relief from pain
When some bright thought has darted through my brain:
Through all that day I've felt a greater pleasure
Than if I'd brought to light a hidden treasure.
As to my sonnets, though none else should heed them,
I feel delighted, still, that you should read them.
Of late, too, I have had much calm enjoyment,
Stretched on the grass at my best loved employment
Of scribbling lines for you. These things I thought
While, in my face, the freshest breeze I caught.
E'en now I'm pillowed on a bed of flowers
That crowns a lofty clift, which proudly towers
Above the ocean-waves, The stalks, and blades,
Chequer my tablet with their quivering shades.
On one side is a field of drooping oats,
Through which the poppies show their scarlet coats;
So pert and useless, that they bring to mind
The scarlet coats that pester human-kind.
And on the other side, outspread, is seen
Ocean's blue mantle streaked with purple, and green.
Now 'tis I see a canvassed ship, and now
Mark the bright silver curling round her prow.
I see the lark dowm-dropping to his nest,
And the broad winged sea-gull never at rest;
For when no more he spreads his feathers free,
His breast is dancing on the restless sea.
Now I direct my eyes into the west,
Which at this moment is in sunbeams drest:
Why westward turn? 'Twas but to say adieu!
'Twas but to kiss my hand, dear George, to you!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Epistle To My Brother George: A Masterpiece of Romantic Poetry

What is the role of poetry in human life? What is the purpose of art in general? Is it merely a form of entertainment, a diversion from the mundane reality, or is it something more profound, something that touches the essence of what it means to be human? John Keats, one of the greatest poets of the Romantic Era, believed that poetry was not just a form of self-expression but a way of connecting with the beauty and mystery of the world. In his "Epistle To My Brother George," Keats explores the themes of love, friendship, mortality, and the power of imagination. In this essay, I will provide a detailed literary criticism and interpretation of this masterpiece of Romantic poetry.


John Keats (1795-1821) was a British poet who lived during the Romantic Era, a period of cultural and artistic revolution that emphasized the power of the imagination, the beauty of nature, and the importance of individual feelings and expression. Keats was born in London and grew up in a working-class family. His father died when he was young, and his mother remarried, but Keats never felt close to his stepfather. He was educated in a local school and later trained as a surgeon, but he abandoned his medical career to focus on poetry.

Keats's poetic career was short but intense. He wrote most of his major poems, including "Ode to a Nightingale," "To Autumn," and "Endymion," in the last three years of his life. Keats's poetry was highly influenced by the Greek and Roman classics, as well as the poetry of William Shakespeare and John Milton. Keats's poetry is marked by its sensuousness, its lyricism, and its concern with beauty and mortality.


"Epistle To My Brother George" is a poem written by Keats in 1816 to his younger brother George, who was emigrating to America. The poem is written in the form of an epistle, a letter or message addressed to someone, and it contains Keats's reflections on the nature of poetry, friendship, and love. The poem is divided into three parts, each of which explores a different aspect of Keats's philosophy of life.

Part I: The Power of Imagination

The first part of the poem focuses on the power of imagination and the role of poetry in shaping our perception of the world. Keats begins by describing the "brawling brook" and the "lonely hill" where he used to spend time as a child. He then contrasts this idyllic landscape with the "dreary waste" of the city, where people are "pampered in their indolence."

Keats argues that the imagination is the key to understanding and appreciating the beauty of the world. He writes:

The imagination may be compared to Adam's dream—he awoke and found it truth.

Keats believes that the imagination can transcend the limitations of the physical world and allow us to experience a deeper, more meaningful reality. He sees poetry as a way of capturing the beauty and mystery of this reality and sharing it with others.

Part II: Love and Friendship

The second part of the poem is a meditation on the nature of love and the importance of friendship. Keats begins by addressing his brother directly, expressing his love and concern for him:

My dear George, the heartfelt love I bear thee
Is such that duty cannot mar it, nor
The dullness of the world erase its trace.

Keats then reflects on the transience of human life and the inevitability of death. He writes:

But love and friendship, far from the keen eye
Of our purblind mortality, shall keep
Their sure, unerring, and immortal course
Till time is no more.

Keats sees love and friendship as transcendent, eternal values that can withstand the ravages of time and mortality. He believes that these values are essential to our humanity and that they make life worth living.

Part III: The Power of Poetry

The third and final part of the poem is a celebration of the power of poetry to communicate the deepest truths and emotions of human experience. Keats writes:

Poetry fettered, fetters the human race!
Nations are destroyed or flourish in proportion as their poetry, painting, and music are destroyed or flourish!

Keats argues that poetry is not merely a form of entertainment but a fundamental expression of human consciousness. He sees poetry as a way of bridging the gap between the individual and the universal, the particular and the eternal. He writes:

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;
That is the Grasshopper's—he takes the lead
In summer luxury—he has never done
With his delights, for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.

Keats believes that poetry is not just a product of the individual mind but a reflection of the order and beauty of the natural world. He sees poetry as a way of connecting with this beauty and communicating it to others.


"Epistle To My Brother George" is a masterful poem that reflects Keats's philosophy of life and art. The poem explores the themes of imagination, love, friendship, and the power of poetry to express the deepest truths and emotions of human experience. Keats sees poetry as a way of transcending the limitations of the physical world and connecting with the beauty and mystery of the universe. He believes that poetry is not just a form of self-expression but a fundamental expression of human consciousness. "Epistle To My Brother George" is a testament to the enduring power of Keats's vision and his contribution to the Romantic Era of literature.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Epistle To My Brother George: A Masterpiece of Romantic Poetry

John Keats, one of the most celebrated poets of the Romantic era, wrote the Epistle To My Brother George in 1816. This poem is a beautiful expression of brotherly love and admiration, and it showcases Keats' mastery of language and poetic form. In this article, we will explore the themes, structure, and language of this classic poem, and analyze its significance in the context of Keats' life and work.


The Epistle To My Brother George is primarily a poem about brotherhood and the bonds of family. Keats addresses his brother George, who was living in America at the time, and expresses his longing for his company and his admiration for his achievements. The poem is full of references to family and home, and it conveys a sense of nostalgia and longing for the familiar.

Another important theme in the poem is the idea of artistic inspiration and creativity. Keats was a passionate poet who believed in the power of art to transform and elevate the human spirit. In the Epistle To My Brother George, he encourages his brother to pursue his own creative passions and to find inspiration in the beauty of the natural world.


The Epistle To My Brother George is written in the form of a letter, or epistle, which was a common literary form in the 18th and 19th centuries. The poem is divided into four stanzas, each consisting of ten lines of iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme is ABABCCDEED, with the final couplet providing a satisfying conclusion to each stanza.

The structure of the poem is simple and elegant, with a clear progression of ideas and themes. Keats begins by addressing his brother and expressing his longing for his company. He then moves on to praise his brother's achievements and encourage him to pursue his creative passions. In the final two stanzas, Keats reflects on the power of art and the beauty of the natural world, and he concludes with a heartfelt expression of brotherly love.


The language of the Epistle To My Brother George is rich and evocative, with a strong emphasis on sensory imagery and emotional expression. Keats uses a variety of poetic devices, including metaphor, allusion, and personification, to create a vivid and memorable portrait of his brother and their relationship.

One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of natural imagery. Keats was a passionate lover of nature, and he believed that the natural world was a source of inspiration and beauty. In the Epistle To My Brother George, he uses images of the sea, the sky, and the earth to convey a sense of wonder and awe at the power of nature.

Another important aspect of the language of the poem is its emotional intensity. Keats was a poet who believed in the power of poetry to evoke strong emotions and to connect with the deepest parts of the human soul. In the Epistle To My Brother George, he expresses his love and admiration for his brother with a raw and unguarded honesty that is both moving and inspiring.


The Epistle To My Brother George is a significant work in the context of Keats' life and work. It showcases his mastery of language and poetic form, and it reveals his deep emotional connection to his family and to the natural world. The poem is also significant because it reflects some of the key themes and ideas of the Romantic era, including the importance of nature, the power of art, and the value of human relationships.

In conclusion, the Epistle To My Brother George is a masterpiece of Romantic poetry that continues to inspire and move readers today. Its themes of brotherhood, creativity, and the beauty of nature are timeless and universal, and its language and structure are a testament to Keats' skill and artistry as a poet. Whether read as a personal letter or as a work of art, this poem is a testament to the enduring power of human connection and the beauty of the natural world.

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