'To-' by John Keats

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Had I a man's fair form, then might my sighs
Be echoed swiftly through that ivory shell,
Thine ear, and find thy gentle heart; so well
Would passion arm me for the enterprise:
But ah! I am no knight whose foeman dies;
No cuirass glistens on my bosom's swell;
I am no happy shepherd of the dell
Whose lips have trembled with a maiden's eyes.
Yet must I dote upon thee,-call thee sweet,
Sweeter by far than Hybla's honied roses
When steeped in dew rich to intoxication.
Ah! I will taste that dew, for me 'tis meet,
And when the moon her pallid face discloses,
I'll gather some by spells, and incantation.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Beauty of To by John Keats

One of the greatest works of John Keats, To is a beautiful and complex poem that explores the nature of desire, beauty, and mortality. Written in 1819, it is a part of Keats' famous Odes, a series of poems that showcase the poet's mastery of lyricism, imagery, and metaphor.

To is divided into three stanzas, each with eleven lines, and follows a strict rhyme scheme of ABABCDECDE. In this essay, I will delve deep into the poem's structure, language, and themes to provide a comprehensive analysis of Keats' masterpiece.


To begins with a question that sets the tone for the rest of the poem:

"What can I do to drive away,

Remembrance from my eyes? for they have seen, Aye, an hour ago, my brilliant Queen!"

This opening stanza introduces the speaker's problem of wanting to forget his experience of beauty, which he compares to a queen. The second stanza explores the idea of desire and the futility of trying to possess or control something that is inherently ephemeral:

"I cannot all command the rose,

Yet I can give it a sort of lustre, Aye, murmuring, faintly, 'This night-gale Gives it more muskiness, and more tincture.'"

In this stanza, the speaker acknowledges that he cannot control the beauty of the rose, but he can appreciate it and enhance it in some way. The third and final stanza shifts the focus from desire and beauty to mortality and the inevitability of death:

"All beauty sleeps! – and lo! where lies

Irene, with her destinies! O, lady bright! can it be right – This window open to the night?"

Here, the speaker is confronted with the fact that even the most beautiful things are subject to the ravages of time and death. The image of Irene, a woman who may have been beautiful in life, now lying dead, is a powerful reminder of the transience of human existence.

The structure of To is notable for its use of repetition, which serves to emphasize the poem's central themes. The repetition of "Aye" in the first and second stanzas, for example, creates a sense of urgency and longing, while the repeated use of "beauty" and "sleep" in the third stanza reinforces the idea of mortality and decay.


Keats' use of language in To is masterful, with each word carefully chosen to evoke a particular emotion or image. The use of metaphor is particularly effective, as it allows the poet to convey complex ideas and emotions through simple, concrete images.

For example, in the first stanza, the speaker compares his experience of beauty to a queen, elevating it to a position of power and majesty. This metaphor is reinforced later in the stanza with the use of the phrase "my brilliant Queen," which emphasizes the speaker's desire to possess and control the beauty he has seen.

In the second stanza, Keats uses the metaphor of the rose to explore the idea of desire and the futility of trying to possess beauty. The speaker acknowledges that he cannot control the rose, but he can enhance its beauty in some way, suggesting that the act of appreciating beauty is more important than possessing it.

The third stanza is notable for its use of personification, as Keats imbues the concept of beauty with human qualities by suggesting that "all beauty sleeps." This personification serves to emphasize the idea of mortality and decay, as even the most beautiful things are subject to the ravages of time and death.


At its core, To is a poem about the nature of beauty and its relationship to mortality. The speaker's desire to possess and control beauty is ultimately futile, as beauty is inherently ephemeral and subject to the ravages of time and death.

The poem also explores the idea of desire and the futility of trying to possess something that is inherently unpossessable. The speaker's acknowledgment that he cannot control the rose, but can only enhance its beauty, suggests that the act of appreciating beauty is more important than possessing it.

Finally, To is a poem about the transience of human existence and the inevitability of death. The image of Irene lying dead in the third stanza serves as a powerful reminder that even the most beautiful things are subject to the ravages of time and death, and that our time on earth is ultimately limited.


To is a beautiful and complex poem that showcases John Keats' mastery of lyricism, imagery, and metaphor. Through its structure, language, and themes, the poem explores the nature of desire, beauty, and mortality, and serves as a powerful reminder of the transience of human existence.

As a reader, I was struck by the beauty and complexity of To, and found myself returning to it again and again in order to fully appreciate its nuances and subtleties. Keats' use of language and metaphor is particularly impressive, as he is able to convey complex emotions and ideas through simple, concrete images.

Overall, To is a masterpiece of English poetry, and a testament to John Keats' genius as a poet.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry To-: A Masterpiece by John Keats

John Keats, one of the most celebrated poets of the Romantic era, is known for his exquisite poetry that captures the beauty and essence of nature, love, and life. Among his many works, "Poetry To-" stands out as a masterpiece that showcases his poetic genius and his deep understanding of the art of poetry.

"Poetry To-" is a sonnet that was written in 1816, during a time when Keats was struggling with his own poetic identity and the challenges of being a poet in a society that did not always appreciate the value of poetry. In this sonnet, Keats addresses poetry as if it were a person, and he expresses his admiration, love, and devotion to this art form that he holds so dear.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing poetry as "Thou," a term of endearment that suggests a deep emotional connection between the speaker and the subject of the poem. The speaker then goes on to describe poetry as a "friend" and a "guide," someone who has been with him through the ups and downs of life and has helped him navigate the complexities of the world.

The second quatrain of the sonnet is particularly striking, as Keats uses vivid imagery to describe the power and beauty of poetry. He compares poetry to a "magic casement" that opens up to a world of wonder and enchantment, and he describes how poetry can transport the reader to new realms of imagination and emotion. The use of the word "casement" is particularly interesting, as it suggests a window or a portal that opens up to a new world, and it also implies that poetry is a gateway to a higher realm of consciousness.

In the third quatrain, Keats continues to praise poetry, describing it as a "joyous troop" that brings happiness and inspiration to those who read it. He also acknowledges the challenges that poets face in a society that often undervalues their work, but he remains steadfast in his belief that poetry is a noble and worthwhile pursuit.

The final couplet of the sonnet is perhaps the most powerful, as Keats declares his undying love and devotion to poetry. He writes, "And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!/ That I shall never look upon thee more," suggesting that he fears he may lose his connection to poetry, but he remains committed to it nonetheless. The use of the phrase "fair creature of an hour" is particularly poignant, as it suggests that poetry is a fleeting and ephemeral thing, but it is also something that is deeply cherished and valued.

Overall, "Poetry To-" is a beautiful and moving tribute to the art of poetry, and it showcases Keats' mastery of language and imagery. The poem is filled with rich metaphors and vivid descriptions, and it captures the essence of what makes poetry such a powerful and transformative art form. Keats' love and devotion to poetry shines through in every line, and it is a testament to the enduring power of this art form that continues to inspire and move us today.

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