Keats's life was troubled by family tragedies, financial problems and a hopeless love affair. Moreover, he himself was killed by tuberculosis at the early age of twenty-five. His poetry was obviously influenced by his impending death and the tragic events of his life and, in fact, most of his poems are imbued with the sense of melancholy, death and mortality.
In his sore need, Keats instinctively turned to poetry, which he conceived as something Absolute, as the only reason of life, the only means to defeat and overcome death. Poetry, he thought, should spring naturally from his inner soul, in the same way as the leaves naturally sprout the tree. In not contain a message or convey a philosophical theory, but only to reproduce what his own Imagination suggest to him: and what struck his Imagination most was Beauty.
Beauty became indeed the central theme of all Keats's poems, since it was the only consolation he found in a life of sadness and misunderstanding. The memory of something beautiful was to him a source of joy. (he wrote: "a thing of beauty is joy for ever"). Beauty could be either physical (women, nature, statues, paintings) or spiritual (friendship, love, poetry). Yet these two aspects were closely interwoven, since physical beauty was simply the expression of the spiritual: and though the former could be temporary and decaying, the latter was eternal and immortal. An artist can in fact die, but the beauty he has created lives on.
Beside the idea of the immortality of beauty, Keats also formulated a theory of "negative capability", that is to say the ability to experience "uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact or reason". This idea is that the poet as such has no identity: he is not concerned with a moral judgement, but he must have "the ability to escape from negate his own personality and thus open himself fully to the complex reality around him."
Keats's lyrical poems are not fragments of a continual spiritual autobiography. Certainly there is some deeply felt personal experience behind the odes of 1819, but the significant fact is that this experience is behind the odes, not their substance. Moreover, the poetical personal pronoun "I" does not stand for a human being linked to the events of his time, but for a universal one. Furthermore the common Romantic tendency to identify scenes and landscapes with subjective moods and emotions is rarely present in his poetry; it has nothing of the Wordsworthian pantheistic convintion, and no sense of mystery.
It was his belief in the supreme value of the Imagination which made him a Romantic poet. Firstly, the world of his poetry is predominantly artificial, one that he imagines rather than reflects from direct experience. Secondly, K's poetry stems from imagination in the sense that a great deal of his work is a vision of he would like human life to be like, stimulated by his own experience of pain and misery.
The contemplation of beauty is the central theme of K's poetry,