Study Help Essay Questions


"On First Looking into Chapman's Homer"

1. Read a few pages of Chapman's Homer and try to ascertain why Keats found it so exciting.

2. Look up definitions of the Petrarchan and the Shakespearean sonnet. What are the forms of each?

3. What does Keats mean by "pure serene"?

4. Look up Apollo in any standard manual of mythology. What is associated with Apollo?

"When I Have Fears"

1. What does Keats mean by "huge cloudy symbols of a high romance"?

2. Find out what efforts have been made to identify the "fair creature of an hour" of the poem.

3. Do you think that Keats is indebted to Shakespeare for materials and attitudes, as well as for form, in "When I Have Fears"?

4. What is a garner?

The Eve of St. Agnes

1. What is the role of the Beadsman in the poem? Is it an essential one?

2. Trace the imagery in the poem that appeals to the ear.

3. Why does Keats have food placed in Madeline's chamber?

"La Belle Dame sans Merci" (original version)

1. Keats wrote a revised version of "La Belle Dame sans Merci." Compare the two versions and decide which is the better one.

2. What does Keats mean by "in language strange" in the poem?

3. Find some other examples of "fatal women" in English poetry.

4. Is there any hint in the poem that the food given to the knight by the "belle dame" was poisoned?

5. Look up the ballad in a handbook of literature and find out what its various characteristics are.

"Ode to Psyche"

1. Read the story of Cupid and Psyche in Apuleius' The Golden Ass. Does Keats' ode owe much to Apuleius' account?

2. What does Keats say indirectly about the imagination in his "Ode to Psyche"?

3. How does the "Ode to Psyche" differ in stanza form and rhyme scheme from the odes that follow it?

4. Why does Keats use an outdoor setting for his "Ode to Psyche"?

5. Would it have served Keats' purpose to have told more about the story of Psyche and Cupid in his "Ode to Psyche"?

"Ode on a Grecian Urn"

1. Read some of the interpretations of the truth-beauty equation in Harvey T. Lyon's Keats' Well-Read Urn. Which one of them is the most persuasive?

2. Does the last stanza of the poem flow out of and summarize the preceding stanzas?

3. Why does Keats include the lines on the "deserted village" in the poem?

4. Are unheard melodies really sweeter than heard melodies? In what sense can Keats' assertion be true?

"Ode on Melancholy"

1. Look up other poems on melancholy in eighteenth-century poetry and compare them with the "Ode on Melancholy."

2. Is the "Ode on Melancholy" as philosophical a poem as the other odes?

3. Examine the ritual element in the last stanza of the poem. Is it in keeping with the rest of the poem?

4. Do Keats' other poems reveal a tendency toward melancholy in him?

"Ode to a Nightingale"

1. Look up nightingale in a handbook of ornithology and in a handbook of mythology. Why do poets sometimes describe the nightingale's song as sad or "plaintive"?

2. What does Keats mean by "charm'd magic casements . . . in faery lands forlorn"?

3. Read the story of Ruth in the Old Testament. What does Keats' allusion add to the meaning of the poem?

4. Do you think the concluding stanza of the poem is on the same level of excellence as the other stanzas? Is it a good ending for the poem?

5. The form of Keats' odes is said to have resulted from his study of the sonnet. In what way are they indebted to the sonnet?


1. Find out all you can about the lamia. Are lamias always evil creatures in folklore?

2. Read Keats' source in Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy. Does Keats follow his source closely?

3. Is the tragic ending of Lamia inevitable?

4. Is Lamia a "fatal woman" like "la belle dame sans merci"?

5. Should Keats have had Lycius die in Lamia?

"To Autumn"

1. Is "To Autumn" a purely descriptive poem?

2. Is "clammy" a suitable word for describing cells filled with honey?

3. Compare Keats' "To Autumn" with the autumn section of The Seasons, a popular poem by the eighteenth-century poet James Thomson. Do you think Thomson could have influenced Keats in "To Autumn"?