On Looking Inside the Grecian Urn – A Preface

Posted On March 20, 2008

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I envy people who travel. Life must be exciting to them, almost every single minute. I traveled from Coimbatore to Bangalore once, a day-and-a-half trip by train, just to visit to the local libraries. It was more work than pleasure. Yet, I could recount at least two interesting things that happened, which I would never have experienced inside Tamil Nadu. So I can imagine how people who travel often, especially for pleasure, would have so many tales to recount.

For people like me, rooted in the motherland, and no immediate change of address in sight, a book is the next best alternative to travel.

There are two types of reading that a person would do – one, reading for enjoyment; and two, reading for information. No, reading the newspaper does not fall into reading for information, because chronic newspaper readers, much as they would like to claim that they are reading for information, are actually addicted to the thing. Try denying them the morning edition one day and you will find out!

So, what would classify as reading for pleasure? Well, anything from your favorite author, favorite bed time story, favorite love letter (!) and …well…your favorite magazine that would give your mother a heart attack! Reading for information is a different story all together. You have to read it, or else! You simply have to read your Grammar text book in sixth grade, you have to read the road signs if you don’t want to get your car’s face relocated and you have to read melodramatic plays, maudlin fiction and ambiguous poetry if you are a student of literature. You also have to read critiques by men who did not find success as writers or poets. This is the final cut…

Incidentally, this last category is what I was up against for my Mphil. Exams that I talked about earlier! So you can imagine that reading up for my examination was no party at all. As every student assumes, I too thought that I was not really going to use, much less enjoy, every thing that I learn.

My reading of excerpts from Letters by John Keats changed all that. What started out as reading for information gradually transformed into reading for pleasure, as I discovered the greatness of the man called Keats. The world is quite familiar with ‘Junkets’, as he was fondly referred to by his friends, but for me it was a discovery of sorts.

Adequate justice is not done to his genius, in the study of the works of this great poet. Schools prescribe Shakespeare and Milton because every literarian, critic and teacher in the world claims that they are truly phenomenal poets. Keats, on the other hand, is read, not because he is a great poet, but because his poetry is beautiful, quaint or just plain familiar. My aim is not to undermine the worth of Shakespeare and the likes; only, to throw light on the thought that, in our bid to extol the greatness of poets already hailed for their greatness, we must not forget other lesser known poets who also possess true greatness, but were not around long enough to seep into the psyche of their society.

To truly enjoy his poetry to the fullest and know the heart that beat so fervently behind those verses, one needs to delve in to the life of this man called John Keats, the man who saw so much tragedy and loss and went through such mental and physical agony and yet produced some of the finest, most delightful poetry the world has ever seen.

In the following posts I would like to share with my readers the wonderful, breathtaking discoveries I have made for myself in the life and works of John Keats the poet and the sensitive soul.

Hope this endeavor will be as refreshing to you as it will be for me.