Keats's Lack of Religious Belief

Glenn Everett, Associate Professor of English, University of Tennessee at Martin

Except for his famous description of life as "a vale of soul-making," Keats seems unconcerned with religion. This lack of concern is perhaps surprising in light of his close acquaintance with death and disease and his expectation of a short life. Do you find in his poetry and his letters any explanation for this? What does he ask of art — i.e., what does artistic creation mean to him?

He says in a letter to Benjamin Bailey dated November 22, 1817,

I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the Heart's affections and the truth of the Imagination‹What the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth‹whether it existed before or not‹for I have the same Idea of all our Passions as of Love they are all in their sublime, creative of essential Beauty. . . . The Imagination may be compared to Adam's dream [of the creation of Eve — Paradise Lost, VIII, 460-490] — he awoke and found it truth. . . . I have never yet been able to perceive how any thing can be known for truth by consequitive reasoning. . . . O for a Life of Sensations rather than of Thoughts! It is a "Vision in the form of Youth" a Shadow of reality to come‹and this consideration has further convinced me . . . that we shall enjoy ourselves here after by having what we called happiness on Earth repeated in a finer tone and so repeated. And yet such a fate can only befall those who delight in Sensation rather than hunger as you do after Truth.

Connect this passage to the poems in which these ideas apply.


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