Subject Material

The Human Seasons by John Keats

Published: 07.08.2012, Updated: 04.03.2017
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John Keats belonged to the group of romantic poets who were the celebrities of the time; Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Wordsworth. However, Keats never had the same popularity and acclaim as the others, nor was his life as scandalous as some of his contemporaries. His genius was not acknowledged until after his death, and he is now cherished among the most prominent English poets of the Romantic era. He suffered from tuberculosis and died in Italy only 25 years old.

Portrait of English Poet John KeatsPortrait of English Poet John KeatsThe Human Seasons by John Keats (1795-1821)

Four seasons fill the measure of the year;
There are four seasons in the mind of man:
He has his lusty Spring, when fancy clear
Takes in all beauty with an easy span:
He has his Summer, when luxuriously
Spring’s honied cud of youthful thought he loves
To ruminate, and by such dreaming high
Is nearest unto heaven: quiet hoves
His soul has in its Autumn, when his wings
He furleth close; contented so to look
On mists in idleness – to let fair things
Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook.
He has his Winter too of pale misfeature,
Or else he would forego his mortal nature.

A Closer Look at the Poem

  • In what way does this poem focus on one of the most common themes of romantic poetry?
  • How does this poem stand in contrast to Keats's own life?
  • What does the last line mean?
  • The poem is composed as a sonnet. This pattern is called Shakespearian sonnet as opposed to the Petrarcian sonnet, which has slightly different structure and rhyming scheme. Follow the link below and read more about the Shakespearian sonnet.