Class XII: Poetry – A Thing of Beauty

A Thing of Beauty

By John Keats


About the poet
John Keats was a British Romantic poet. He was born on October 31, 1795, in London. He lost both his parents at a young age. His father, a livery-stable keeper, died when Keats was eight; his mother died of tuberculosis six years later. After his mother’s death, Keats’s maternal grandmother appointed two London merchants, Richard Abbey and John Rowland Sandell, as guardians. Abbey, a prosperous tea broker, assumed the bulk of this responsibility, while Sandell played only a minor role. When Keats was fifteen, Abbey withdrew him from the Clarke School, Enfield, to apprentice with an apothecary-surgeon and study
medicine in a London hospital. In 1816 Keats became a licensed apothecary, but he never practiced his profession, deciding instead to write poetry.
Keats spent the summer of 1818 on a walking tour in Northern England and Scotland, returning home to care for his brother, Tom, who suffered from tuberculosis. While nursing his brother, Keats met and fell in love with a woman named Fanny Brawne. That same autumn Keats contracted tuberculosis, and by the following February he felt that death was already upon him.
In July 1820, he published his third and best volume of poetry, Lamia, Isabella but by that time he had reached an advanced stage of his disease. He continued a correspondence with Fanny Brawne and when he could no longer bear to write to her directly because of his failing health, her mother prevented their getting married. Under his doctor’s orders to seek a warm climate for the winter, Keats went to Rome with his friend, the painter Joseph Severn. He died there on February 23, 1821, at the age of twenty-five, and was buried in the Protestant cemetery.
Background
The poem is based on a Greek legend in which Endymion a handsome young shepherd and poet who lived on Mount Latmos, had a vision of Cynthia, the moon goddess. The enchanted youth resolved to seek her out and so wandered away through the forest and down under the sea.
Central Idea
 Beauty is a heavenly tonic/drink – an endless fountain of nectar. This beauty comes in different forms – a tale, a poem, a play, a lovely object of nature or the heavenly bodies. It soothes our spirits and gives us good health, sound sleep and mental peace. It removes sadness from our lives and gives an everlasting joy.
Summary 
A beautiful thing is a source of eternal joy, its loveliness grows with the passage of time and its impact never fades away. It is as soothing as a cool shade. It never passes into nothingness. It gives us good health, sound sleep and mental peace. It provides the beholder with a haven of tranquility and solace.
Man and nature are inseparable. It is the beauty of nature that keeps us attached to this earth. Every morning we collect fresh lovely flowers and prepare garlands. They refresh our moods and we forget our worries for a while.
Every person gets a bitter taste of sorrow, suffering and grief. Disease, disappointments and misfortunes give us mental and physical suffering. It is the beautiful things that remove the pall of sadness from our lives and make us happy and hopeful.
All beautiful things of nature are a boon for human beings. The sun, the moon, the trees, daffodils, simple sheep, clear streams, forests ferns, musk rose etc. provide us peace and happiness.
In addition to these lovely objects of nature, there are plays and poems to lift our spirits. The glorious achievements of mighty heroes and magnificent rewards by God on the day of judgement for those mighty men, lovely tales of olden days are endless source of everlasting joy. The poet feels that nothing can surpass the beauty of nature. They are an elixir of life. They are like an endless fountain that pours immortal drink from the heaven into our hearts. So beauty is a gift of God and it gives us joy forever.
Main points
1. The beautiful things of nature are permanent source of joy and make our lives sweet.
2. A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
3. It does not pass into nothingness but its beauty keeps on increasing.
4. It gives us sound sleep and good health;
5. This world is full of frustrations, disappointments and dearth of noble people.
6. These make our life gloomy and sad.
7. But things of beauty remove the pall and sadness from our spirits.
8.  Nature is a constant source of happiness for human beings.
9. The beautiful things are – sheep, daffodils, clear streams, musk roses and forest thickets.
10. These things soothe and make us happy.
11. Stories of heroes who have died in peace of war are also things of beauty and have a stimulating effect.
12. But the beauties of nature are lovelier than all the lovely tales and are like the immortal drink from heaven.
Important Extracts
1. Read the extract carefully and answer the questions that follow:
A thing of beauty is a joy forever
Its loveliness increases, it will never
Pass into nothingness; but will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Questions
Q1. What is being said to be a joy forever?
Ans. A thing of beauty is said to be a joy forever.
Q2. What is peculiar about a beautiful thing?  
Ans. A beautiful thing leaves a permanent impression on our minds. Its loveliness goes on increasing. It stays in our imagination and becomes a source of joy forever.
Q3.What can a beautiful thing do for the human beings?
Ans. A beautiful thing gives us a sound sleep full of sweet dreams, good health and a peaceful breathing. It also helps us in achieving the peace of mind. It removes sadness and brings happiness to our depressed spirits.
Q4. How does a thing of beauty keep a bower quiet for us?
Ans. It reserves a quiet place in our heart. When we are tired, tensed, troubled or disappointed, it heals our sorrows and restores happiness for us again.
Q5. Explain: “It will never pass into nothingness”.
Ans. A thing of beauty is a perennial thing. Its beauty goes on increasing. It will never be reduced into nothingness.
2. Read the extract carefully and answer the questions that follow:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or red;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.
Questions
Q1. Who are the mighty dead?
Ans. The mighty dead are those who sacrificed their lives for a noble cause and made great achievements in their lifetime.
Q2. How is grandeur associated with the mighty dead?
Ans. The mighty dead are honored and worshiped for their remarkable achievements. Now they are lying buried under their graves. On the day of judgement, God also will reward them for their noble deeds. It is this dignity that is associated with them.
Q3. What lovely tales does the poet talk of?
Ans. He talks of the great myths and the tales of the olden days.
Q4. What does the poet call “an endless fountain of immortal drink”?
Ans. Beautiful things.
Q5. What image does the poet draw in the last two lines?
Ans. Beautiful things are like an endless fountain which goes on pouring the immortal drink unto us from the heaven. They are a source of immense joy and happiness.
Short Answer Type Questions
Q1. How is a thing of beauty a joy forever?

Ans.
 A thing of beauty is a joy forever as its loveliness increases through recollection and contemplation. It is a perennial source of pleasure that ensures good health and quiet breathing. It brings relief in our painful existence. 
Q2. What makes human beings love life in spite of troubles and sufferings?

Ans.
 In spite of troubles and sufferings, human beings love life because there are some beautiful things that move away the gloom from the depressed minds. The beautiful things in nature like the moon, the sun, the trees, the ferns and the daffodils bring happiness and reduce men’s sufferings. 
Q3. List the things of beauty mentioned in the poem.
Ans. All beautiful things of nature are a boon for human beings. The sun, the moon, the trees, daffodils, simple sheep, clear streams, forests ferns, musk rose etc. provide us peace and happiness.
Q4. List the things that cause suffering and pain.
Ans. Disease, disappointments, jealousy, lack of human qualities, gloomy days, unhealthy and evil ways cause pains and sufferings in our lives.
Q5. What does the line, ‘Therefore are we wreathing a flowery band to bind us to earth’ suggest to you?
Ans. When we pluck fresh flowers to make a garland, it shows our love for life, for nature and for beauty. The flowers attract us and bind us to the nature and the earth.
Q6. What makes human beings love life in spite of troubles and sufferings?
Ans. There are many things that depress our spirits but our nature has blessed us with beauty that alone makes our life happy. It removes the pall of sadness. It offers us loveliness and pleasures. So human beings love life.
Q7. Do we experience things of beauty only for short moments or do they make a lasting impression on us?
Ans. Things of beauty make a lasting impression on us and continue to delight us and give us joy. Beauty can never fade away or lose its value.
Q8. What image does the poet use to describe the beautiful bounty of the earth?
Ans. Human beings love life in spite of troubles and sufferings because nature is the best healer and it brings beauty and joy to our life. The memory of the beautiful experiences helps us to bear our sorrows and provide a peaceful retreat.
Q9. Why is grandeur associated with mighty dead?

Ans.
 Great men have great fall. The exploits of the mighty rulers and generals fill us with awe and wonder. We admire and even worship our heroes. We remember them gratefully because they sacrificed their lives for a noble cause.
Q10. What becomes of all lovely tales we have heard or read?

Ans.
 All lovely tales that we have heard or read become a source of pleasure. They become an endless fountain of nectar and give us heavenly pleasure. 

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