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.

Very simply put, yet poetic, Keats describes a thing of beauty as emanating joy forever. Its beauty only increases and it will never cease. The benefits proffered by a thing of beauty are listed as giving sound rest with good dreams and well-being.

Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing

A flowery band to bind us to the earth,

Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth

Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,

Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways

Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,

Some shape of beauty moves away the pall

From our dark spirits…

The earth minus the beautiful things is a despondent, spiteful place thriving in callous insensitive dearth and is harsh toward human beings. Every day human beings face gloomy days packed with unhealthy spite and darkness. However, in spite of all, a thing of beauty helps remove the dark cloud that burdens our souls. Hence, the poet says that we – human beings – each day create an ornate band, made of all the lovely things we see. This band keeps us bound to the despondent earth – as we would otherwise be hopeless.

… Such the sun, the moon,

Trees old, and young, sprouting a shady boon

For simple sheep; and such are daffodils

With the green world they live in; and clear rills

That for themselves a cooling covert make

‘Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,

Rich with a sparkling of fair musk-rose blooms;

And such too is the grandeur of the dooms

We have imagined for the mighty dead;

All lovely tales that we have heard or read;

An endless fountain of immortal drink,

Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

This closing paragraph simply tells us some of the beautiful things on Earth. After all, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder – Everyone can highlight something beautiful in anything. The examples cited by the poet are as such: the sun, the moon, trees, flowers, streams, musk-rose blooms, architectural sepulchers, even fairy tales or heroic legends. The ‘simple sheep’ are human beings – the poet sympathizes with the innocence of human beings. Keats sees the beauty in innocent humans seeking solace in nature, and Mother Nature in its own way sprouts a shady abode of relief and consolation. The expression ‘Lily of the valley’ is quite well known and rouses images of a delicate lone white flower holding up its head amidst a setting of thorns and barbs and everything contrary in nature to delicateness – so too are the daffodils mentioned in the poem.

The poet also sees beauty in the death of martyrs and legends. ‘The mighty dead’ are those martyrs who have died bravely for a cause. We honor them by erecting magnificent, grand sepulchers in which beauty is seen. If one looks around, there are innumerable beautiful things to notice – they seem to flow immortally as a fountain, from the gods above to help the pitiable human beings to cope with the harshness of life.


39 thoughts on “John Keats’ A thing of Beauty – finally makes sense

  1. i have been teaching my students that ‘grandeur of the dooms’ .. implies the grand conception of heavens where we imagine our great ancestors to have attained an exalted place near god .. almost every religion and culture has some such conception of a blissful state where we attain peace and divine grace after death .. this is the most beautiful imagination of the collective human consciousness and has sustained its charm for mankind since time unknown .. i don’t know if i am correct in interpreting it this way … ..

  2. *Error your comparison of sheep with the innocent human being is totally wrong
    as u see the sentence carefully:”a shady boon for simple sheep” so its actually the sheep who has been talked about….no comparison

  3. some things are wrong….though as a whole the message of the poem is conveyed…..”for simple sheep” does not symbolize human beings or their innocence

    1. Thank you for your comment. I put up this explanatory post while I was a High school student. But now, as a student of literature, I do realize lots of things – my entire point of view is different now. I could try to redo the entire explanation now if I found time.
      By the way, please do give in you point of view. I would love to hear different interpretations. Once again, thanks a lot for the check! Have a pleasant day. 🙂

  4. Thanks for helping with this poem… Really useful !
    Check out my works please, I hope you’d like them 🙂
    Need support, since I’m new to the blogging thingy !

  5. ‘grandeur of the dooms’ .. implies the grand conception of heavens where we imagine our great ancestors to have attained an exalted place near god …it is not about grandeur of literature — that is deviation from John Keats overall perception of nature and idea behind the poem

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