Keats is a romantic poet. But his romanticism is different from that of the other romantics. He began writing poetry under the influence of Spenser and Milton. With Spenser he felt a kinship of sensibility. With Milton he felt a kinship of ambition. Both these poets strengthened the elements of escapism in him. In Spenser he found an ideal of nature’s sensuous beauty. In Milton he found an imagined contemplation of heroism to escape from the rude realities of everyday life.
Keats’s poetry shows his sensuous response to nature and art. His sensations are pure constituting beauty and truth and joy. Even in his later poetry, where an interesting development from romance to realism is marked, sensuousness remains the central quality–
“Who hath not seen thee off amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flower
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.”
Keat’s life and poetry are inseparable. Each of his poems is inspired by an intimate personal experience. Yet it attains impersonality. There is a healthy integration of life and art in his poetry. With his feeling for beauty he could perceive the vital connection between beauty and truth.
“On the Grasshopper and Cricket” is a fine sonnet of Keats. Here he shows that the music of earth is continuous-
“The poetry of earth is never dead.” Seasons may change. Singer may vary. But the music on earth goes on.
Here the poet points to the poetry of earth especially during tough times of summer and winter. In the hot summer noon all the birds take rest and stop singing. Soon the grasshopper takes over the charge. It goes on producing the chirping sound while jumping about the new- mown meadow. It finds the summer heat as pleasant. When it enjoys to the full, it takes shelter under some plant.
In winter evening man and animal, bird and insect keep indoors due to extreme cold outside. An atmosphere of silence prevails. But even then the poetry of earth continues without break.
The frost drives the cricket indoors. It seeks the warmth, of the stove. From the stove its shrill song comes. With increasing warmth, it sings louder and louder-
“When the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrill
The cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever.”
In the meantime, human beings feel drowsy. In their drowsiness, they think that music of the grasshopper continues still-
“And seems to one in drowsiness half lost
The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.”
Here Keats emphasizes the point that all music is basically the same whether it is the grasshopper’s or the cricket’s.
It is a petrarchan sonnet. The octave has rhyme- scheme of abba, cddc. The sestet has rhyme-scheme of efg efg.