Endymion by John Keats

Endymion is a breathtaking poem. In this poem, John Keats expresses his vision of beauty and provides his own definition of beauty. Endymion, according to Classical Mythology, was a beautiful youth with whom the Moon Goddess fell in love and induced a perpetual sleep on in order to kiss him without his knowledge.

Summary of Endymion

The first book of John Keats’ “Endymion” consists of three stanzas that can be broken down into smaller sections for easier analysis. The poem is built on a consistent and ever-present rhyme scheme of aabbccddee… and so on. Keats chose this rhyme scheme to keep the poem moving forward. The pattern guides the reader from one line to the next as they become accustomed to what will come next.

Endymion is named after the Aeolian shepherd and king of Elis in Greek mythology. He was said to rule at Olympia and is best known for his love for Selene, the moon. This prompted many, including Pliny the Elder, to portray Endymion as an astronomer or at least as someone who is well-versed in celestial movements.

In the mythological account of Endymion’s life, he asks for and receives eternal life. This blessing, and curse, is only possible if he sleeps indefinitely. Selene, the Titan goddess of the moon, can visit him in this state indefinitely. Together they bare 50 daughters.

The first book of John Keats’ “Endymion” details the speaker’s beliefs about the power of beauty and his intentions to tell Endymion’s storey.

The speaker begins the poem by describing in detail the power he believes beauty has over human life. He sees it as a guiding force that, when accepted and appreciated, enters one’s heart and aids in the clearing of one’s path through life. When one fully understands beauty, it never leaves. It transforms the observer into the lovely object.

Lines 1-9

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us, and a sleep

Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

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,

In the first stanza of this piece, the speaker introduces the aspects of life and beauty that he will discuss in depth in the subsequent stanzas and books. One should keep the Endymion’s storey in mind, as well as his eternal sleep. “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” begins the first line of this piece, which is quite well-known. This is unmistakably linked to Endymion’s lovely immortality, but on a more human scale. According to the speaker, if something is beautiful, it emits a “joy” that lasts a lifetime. The “increase” of “loveliness” that will emerge alongside the beauty will have no bounds.

The simple fact of the thing’s beauty will keep it from slipping into “nothingness.” Beauty gives it immortality, but it does not separate it from the human world. It will still be there for those who need it, “keeping[ing] / A bower quiet” and ready. This place of rest will provide you with sweet dreams as well as good health. It is energising.

The final lines of this section speak on how the beauty will take one into the
“morrow” and when one awakens they will have made, through their sleep alongside beauty, a “band to bind us to the earth.” The more time one spends with beautiful things, the closer one becomes to the earth. There is nothing that can stop this from happening, no “despondence” or absence of “noble natures.” All of humankind has access to beauty.

Lines 10-19

Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways

Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,

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:

Amongst the darkest days of life beauty will be there to lift away “unhealthy” thoughts. It will be like a guide through one’s life that provides a way out of “dark spirits” and shows on a brighter path as if guided by the sun.

Along the path that beauty makes there are, “Trees old and young” that create “shady” spots for “sheep…and…daffodils” to live. The world is made lovely, liveable, and worthwhile because of the beauty that inhabits it. The plants that thrive on beauty are able to create “for themselves” a “cooling covert” that protects them from the “hot season.”

Lines 20-24

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.

The powerful world just described by the speaker is now juxtaposed with the world that “We have imagined for the mighty dead.” The world of the living is just as fascinating as the world of the dead. Their elaborate complications and grand landscapes are similar.

The speaker continues on the describe the way that beauty is able to move through life. One such way is through the “tales that we have heard or read.” These stories are passed from person to person and their “lov[liness]” is maintained.

Analysis of the poem

The poet used the first stanza to introduce himself and his concept of nature’s beauty, as well as the role it played in his personal life. He recognised that the beauty of nature uplifts the human spirit and helps us face our challenges. The stanza also defined the writer’s inspiration for rewriting Endymion’s Greek storey.

He affirmed that, despite our troubles, nature’s beauty always seems to intervene and restore our joy, hopes and dreams.

Some shape of beauty moves away the pall

From our dark spirits.

He then equated the earth’s beauty to good sleep and perfect health.

A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

In the first stanza, the poet also traces the origins of the story on which the poem Endymion is based.

All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

The writer also showed that he treasured his life and hoped that he lived long enough to complete his work.

Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,

He explained his will to continue living and enjoying the earth’s beauty despite the depressing days that he encountered

Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth

Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,

In summary, the first stanza serves as an introduction about the writer, his inspiration for the poem and his personal description of earth’s beauty which would later relate to the story of Endymion.

Reorienting the text of the poem

Endymion, one of John Keats’ most significant poetic works, advanced his goal of creating fully developed Romantic poetry that incorporated classical themes into his own times. He weaves description, narrative, classical allusion, and emotional-intellectual analysis into the storey of one man’s quest and self-discovery in four books, each about 1,000 lines long. While demonstrating Keats’ mastery, the luscious language is also well suited to the themes. The storey is set in a real-world setting, but Endymion’s fulfilment takes him out of it at the end. In the meantime, he must overcome numerous obstacles in mysterious subterranean and subaquatic environments.

Endymion, a shepherd in the Greek mountains, is a dreamy, melancholy character. A simple existence tending sheep is not very fulfilling, and his life is transformed after he sees an ideal woman in a vision. Nothing but pursuing this illusory woman, whom he believes is his spiritual mate, will satisfy him. This desire drives him away from home, requiring him to take bold, decisive action.

Endymion Short Questions

Q. When it was published?
Answer. The poem was published in 1818.

Q. “A Thing of beauty is a joy forever is a forever” these lines have taken from which poem?
Answer. Keats Endymion.

Q. In how many books it is divided?
Answer. Four Books.

Q. Who was Moon goddess in the poem ?
Answer. Selene goddess.

Q. What do you now about Endymion?
Answer. Endymion was a shepherd who was loved by the goddess of moon, Selene. She used to visit him every night.

Q. What are the people doing when the poem opens?
Answer. We come across with a group of shepherds who are there to offer a sacrifice to Pan, the god of shepherds
and flocks.

Q. What is the structure of the poem?
Answer. The poem is written in rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter. It is divided into four books. Endymion is the poem which is based on the Greek myth of Endymion.

Q. What is the main theme of the poem?
Answer. The main theme of the poem is its starting lines “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever”. Keats wants permanence of beauty so he chose such a theme that is related to beauty.

Q. Why does Endymion not take part in the ceremony?
Answer. Endymion does not take part in the ceremony because he is feeling unwell. He seems to be in dozing condition.

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