Keats200 - Poems of 1819

2021 marks the bicentenary of the death of Romantic poet John Keats. This online exhibition by Keats House, Hampstead celebrates his life and works for the #Keats200 bicentenary programme.

The Poems of 1819: ‘He was a Poet, sure a lover too’

‘In the spring of 1819 a nightingale had built her nest near my house. Keats felt a tranquil and continual joy in her song; and one morning he took his chair from the breakfast-table to the grass-plot under a plum-tree, where he sat for two or three hours. When he came into the house, I perceived he had some scraps of paper in his hand, and these he was quietly thrusting behind the books. On inquiry, I found those scraps, four or five in number, contained his poetic feeling on the song of our nightingale.’

‘Life of John Keats’, Charles Brown, 1836-1841.

Keats wrote some of the finest poems in the English language in one phenomenally creative period from September 1818 to September 1819. He was just 23. Despite being hampered by family tragedy, continued money worries and literary criticism, Keats began and revised his epic poem ‘Hyperion’, composed two long narrative poems, sonnets, a ballad, a play and six exceptional odes.

A drawing of a young man with curly hair, looking to the right and resting his head on his right hand.
Sketch of John Keats. By Charles Brown. Print from a drawing. 1819. Image courtesy of Keats House, City of London, K/PZ/01/110. 

Inspired by the loss of his brother Tom and the beauty, friendship and love he found in Hampstead, his poems of that year are both sad and uplifting at the same time,beautifully demonstrating how sorrow and happiness exist together. He was skilled enough to write about different subjects in different types of verse, yet his poems all show his love of nature and his belief in how powerful the human imagination is.

He seems to say that though everything in life fades, we still have beauty, an idea he represented in his poems through a malicious maiden or the melodic song of a nightingale.

Image showing the original manuscript of ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ and a transcript of the first three stanzas of the poem, written by Keats in May 1819
MS 1-1933. John Keats. Ode to aNightingale. Ink on paper, 1819. ©The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Actor Matthew Coulton reads 'Ode to a Nightingale'

As part of the Keats200 bicentenary programme, The Keats Foundation and Keats House, Hampstead recorded and published some of Keats's most loved poems, the Six Odes, performed by actor Matthew Coulton.

Read an introduction by Professor Nicholas Roe, Chair of The Keats Foundation, and enjoy the readings.

Find out more

Each day until 23 February, marking 200 years since Keats's death, we will share a new story related to periods in his life.

Introduction to Keats and Keats200

Early life

Medical Training

Wentworth Place

Fanny Brawne

Poems of 1819

Critical Responses

Keats and Consumption

Death and Legacy

The Keats200 bicentenary is a celebration of Keats’s life, works and legacy, beginning in December 2018 through to February 2021 and beyond. It is led by three major partners – Keats House, Hampstead, The Keats Foundation and the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association – and is open to all individuals and organisations who have an interest in Keats or poetry. The bicentenary of Keats’s most productive years as a poet, and the period when he found inspiration, friendship and love, is an exciting opportunity to (re)discover and enjoy his works as well as engage with poetry and its ongoing relevance to us all today.

Find out more about #Keats200 by following Keats House on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.