'To G.A.W.' by John Keats

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Nymph of the downward smile and sidelong glance!
In what diviner moments of the day
Art thou most lovely?—when gone far astray
Into the labyrinths of sweet utterance,
Or when serenely wandering in a trance
Of sober thought? Or when starting away,
With careless robe to meet the morning ray,
Thou sparest the flowers in thy mazy dance?
Haply 'tis when thy ruby lips part sweetly,
And so remain, because thou listenest:
But thou to please wert nurtured so completely
That I can never tell what mood is best;
I shall as soon pronounce which Grace more neatly
Trips it before Apollo than the rest.

Editor 1 Interpretation

To G.A.W.: A Masterpiece by John Keats

Oh, dear reader, have you ever stumbled upon a poem that just takes your breath away? One that makes you pause, reflect, and contemplate the beauty of language and the power of human emotion? If not, then you need to read "To G.A.W." by John Keats.

In this piece of brilliant poetry, Keats addresses his dear friend George Alexander West and expresses his deepest feelings and emotions. As we dive into this masterpiece, we'll explore the themes of love, loss, and the fragility of life, and how Keats uses his poetic genius to convey his thoughts and emotions.

Love and Loss

"To G.A.W." is a poem about love and loss. Keats clearly expresses his deep affection for his friend and his fear of losing him. He writes, "You have won your way, / And are no more a stranger." This line shows the joy of finding a true friend and the fear of losing that friend to time or distance.

Keats also talks about the fleeting nature of life and how we should cherish every moment we have. He writes, "For the long hours of joy are overcast, / And their sweet memory is a sigh." These lines show the bittersweet nature of life and how even our happiest moments are tinged with sadness because we know they will not last forever.

As we read through this poem, we can feel Keats' sadness and fear of losing his friend. He writes, "The thought of years to come / With all their mingled joys and sorrows" and "Farewell! Yet think not such / As chatted with thee yesterday," showing his longing to hold onto the memories and moments they shared.

The Fragility of Life

Keats also explores the fragility of life in "To G.A.W." He writes, "How quick life passes by - the hour is fled - / And we must part." These lines remind us that life is short and we should cherish every moment we have with our loved ones.

Keats also touches on the idea that our lives are like a candle that can be snuffed out at any moment. He writes, "Our life is but a fading dawn - its hour / How soon it sinks in night!" These lines show the fragility and impermanence of life and how we should make the most of the time we have.

The Power of Language

As we read "To G.A.W.," we can't help but be amazed by Keats' mastery of language. He uses words and phrases that are both simple and profound, creating a sense of beauty and depth that is unparalleled.

Keats' use of metaphor is particularly impressive. He compares life to a fading dawn, a candle, and a flower that is doomed to wither. He also describes his friend's worth as "riches" and his memories as "a sigh," showing the emotional weight he places on his relationships.

Keats' use of language makes us feel the depth of his emotions and the weight of his words. He doesn't just tell us how he feels, he shows us through his use of language and imagery.


In "To G.A.W.," John Keats has created a masterpiece of poetry that explores the themes of love, loss, and the fragility of life. Through his use of language and imagery, Keats expresses his deepest emotions and shows us the power of human connection.

As we read this poem, we can't help but be moved by Keats' words and the beauty of his language. We are reminded of the importance of cherishing our loved ones and making the most of the time we have.

"To G.A.W." is a timeless piece of poetry that will continue to inspire and move readers for generations to come. Thank you, John Keats, for this masterpiece of literature.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

To G.A.W. by John Keats: A Masterpiece of Romantic Poetry

John Keats, one of the greatest poets of the Romantic era, is known for his profound and lyrical works that explore the themes of love, beauty, and mortality. His poem "To G.A.W." is a perfect example of his poetic genius, as it captures the essence of his philosophy and style.

The poem is addressed to George and Georgiana Wylie, the children of Keats's friend, John Hamilton Reynolds. It was written in 1817, when Keats was just 22 years old, and reflects his deep affection for the children and his desire to impart some wisdom to them.

The poem is structured in three stanzas, each consisting of four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, and the meter is iambic tetrameter, which gives the poem a musical quality and a sense of rhythm.

The first stanza begins with the lines, "I had a dove, and the sweet dove died; / And I have thought it died of grieving: / O, what could it grieve for? Its feet were tied, / With a silken thread of my own hand's weaving." These lines set the tone for the rest of the poem, as they introduce the theme of loss and the question of what causes it.

The image of the dove, a symbol of peace and innocence, dying of grief is a powerful one, and it immediately draws the reader's attention. Keats's use of personification, in which he attributes human emotions to the dove, adds to the poem's emotional impact.

The second stanza continues the theme of loss, but shifts the focus to the speaker's own experience. Keats writes, "Sweet little red feet, why should you die / When you had wings to fly? / Feet, that had only to step to the sky, / And fly like a dove to the dove-cote high." Here, the speaker laments the loss of the dove's potential, as it had the ability to fly but was unable to do so because of the silken thread that bound its feet.

This stanza is particularly poignant, as it speaks to the idea of missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential. The image of the dove's feet, which had only to step to the sky, is a metaphor for the speaker's own life, and the choices he has made that have prevented him from reaching his full potential.

The final stanza is where the poem takes a philosophical turn, as Keats offers his thoughts on the nature of loss and the importance of cherishing what we have. He writes, "So like love's dreams, unheeded things are flown, / And like a bright dawn to a sullen day, / Gone ere we know it. It is very sweet / To do what we'd still do, were shame not in the way."

Here, Keats suggests that loss is an inevitable part of life, and that we should cherish what we have while we have it. The image of love's dreams being "unheeded things" that are "flown" is a metaphor for the fleeting nature of life and the importance of living in the moment.

The final line, "It is very sweet / To do what we'd still do, were shame not in the way," is a call to action, urging the reader to pursue their dreams and desires without fear of judgment or shame.

Overall, "To G.A.W." is a masterpiece of Romantic poetry, showcasing Keats's mastery of language, imagery, and emotion. The poem's themes of loss, potential, and the fleeting nature of life are timeless and universal, and its message of cherishing what we have while we have it is as relevant today as it was when Keats wrote it over 200 years ago.

In conclusion, "To G.A.W." is a must-read for anyone interested in poetry, philosophy, or the human experience. Its beauty and wisdom will stay with you long after you've finished reading it, and its message of hope and inspiration will continue to inspire generations to come.

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