A THING OF BEAUTY

About the poet

John Keats was born in London in the year 1795 and died in Rome in 1821 at the young age of 25 due to illness. He is a romantic poet and his poetry is characterized by sensual imagery in his most popular work which is a series of odes, (a lyrical poem which is meant for a particular subject). Today, his poems are one of the most sought after creations in English literature. The above given poetry is an excerpt from his poem, -Endymion : A poetic Romance-(1818), considered to be an epic poem.

Background of the poem

Endymion is an epic poem in English. This poem by Keats is based on the Greek mythology of Endymion, the shepherd beloved by the moon goddess Selene. We see an elaboration of the original story and the moon Goddess Selene is named as “Cynthia”.

The poem equates Endymion’s original romantic ardor with a more universal quest for a self-destroying transcendence in which he might achieve a blissful personal unity with all creation.

Endymios in Greek mythology is a story of a handsome youth who spent much of his life sleeping. There are different views related to Endymion. According to some tradition Endymion was the king of Elis. Several traditions say that he was offered by Zeus to choose anything he might desire and Endymionin order to remain young forever chose an everlasting sleep.

 

While some tradition says Endymion’s eternal sleep was a punishment given by Zeus, because Endymion fell in love with Zeus’s wife Hera. Selene was deeply in love with Endymion, some say Selene had cursed Endymion into everlasting sleep so that she can enjoy him all by herself.

Selene’s love for Endymion made her visit him every night while he was asleep. But in the poem Keats emphasizes on Endymion’s love for Diana rather than on hers for him. Keats transformed this tale into prose to express the loves that have been felt on imaginative longings.

This theme of love is determined in the adventure of the Endymion quest by Diana. In the search for Diana Endymion falls in love with an earthly maiden. But in the end Diana and the earthly maiden turn out to be one and the same.

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

  • The beautiful things of nature are permanent source of joy and make our lives sweet.

  • A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

  • It does not pass into nothingness but its beauty keeps on increasing.

  • It gives us sound sleep and good health;

  • This world is full of frustrations, disappointments and dearth of noble people.

  • These make our life gloomy and sad.

  • But things of beauty remove the pall and sadness from our spirits.

  • Nature is a constant source of happiness for human beings.

  • The beautiful things are – sheep, daffodils, clear streams, musk roses and forest thickets.

  • These things soothe and make us happy.

  • Stories of heroes who have died in peace of war are also things of beauty and have a stimulating effect.

  • But the beauties of nature are lovelier than all the lovely tales and are like the immortal drink from heaven.

 

Important Expressions

Bower quite for us: A distinct place in our memory or a separate shelter which is exclusively kept of the human beings.

Wreathing a flowery band to bind: An accumulation of sweet remembrances and beautiful experiences which act as a connecting link to let human remain existed to the world in the time of alienation.


Inhuman dearth of noble natures: Irreparable, inhuman and illogical lack of virtues and human values which tend to make human beings feel disheartened.


Made for our searching: All the complications and ordeals of life are quite obvious for humankind to undergo sometime or other in their life.

Simple sheep: Innocent humankind referred to as flock of sheep in the Bible and as such, Jesus Christ is shepherd.

Cooling covert: Unexpected and fortunate soothing effect of the fountains and source of water in desert and hot weather.

Grandeur of the dooms: The magnificence and inspirational vibes of the martyrdom for some noble cause.

Mighty dead: The great people who laid their lives quite selflessly for the good of others.

Endless fountain of immortal drink: Ever flowing bounties and pleasure of life which are no less than nectar. Though human beings have been given a mortal life span, however there are innumerable things by which it can be lived immortally.

Heaven’s brink: Ever flowing and ever generating source of the blissful bounties given by God. 

 

Explanation

 

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.

 

Meaning … A thing of beauty is a perennial source of joy. It never diminishes, and its appeal seldom wanes. Like an eternal source of ebullience, it soothes our nerves, makes our place of living joyful, and fills us with beautiful dreams during our sleep. Like a reinvigorating balm, it makes us healthy, blissful.

 

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

 

Meaning .. Living on earth is never always a bed of roses. Life often gets mired in sorrows, frustrations, and despair. In order to dispel such dark clouds of doom, the earth has its oasis. The myriad things of beauty that the earth is dotted with are like garlands of flower that bind us to the earth. Without these, life will be barren and insufferable. These beautiful objects provide us with the much-needed respite and solace.

 

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

Some shape of beauty moves away the pall

From our dark spirits.

Such the sun, the moon,

Trees old, and young, sprouting a shady boon

For simple sheep; and such are daffodils

 

Meaning .. Sadly, many of the beautiful things on earth play hide-and-seek with us. They become elusive when we want to feast our eyes in them. This is rather tragic. However, they reappear and we can again draw bask in their bliss. The sun, the moon make themselves visible to us in periodic intervals. The woods grow from seed to sapling to large trees, eventually weather in their dotage, and fall. The cycle goes on relentlessly. In a similar way, sheep grow from their tiny shapes, till they are culled. Again more sheep are born to graze in the meadows offering us great delight. The daffodils blossom in thousands filling the landscape in their dazzling yellow, but they too, weather and fall. Thus, the cycle of birth and death continues.

 

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 sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms;

And such too is the grandeur of the dooms

 

Meaning .. The wild flowers and some species of trees thrive near the forest streams where the water gives them the nourishment. The shady foliage, and the cool ambience fosters their growth. It provides a shelter against the summer heat. The inside of the forest becomes awash with musk-rose blooms.
The power and awe of the Nature’s pang of destruction is inescapable.

 

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.

 

Meaning .. We have all heard and experienced the inexorable dance of gloom, doom and destruction. It is an integral part of the life on earth. However, the fountain of life and happiness never dries up. We have all heard stories of regeneration, joy, and optimism. This is because the Heaven pours a un-ending stream of nectar onto the earth, to sustain life, vitality and happiness for we all.

 

Poetic devices/figures of speech

 

Metaphor: bower quiet; sweet dreams; wreathing a flowery band; pall; endless fountain of immortal drink

 

Alliteration: noble natures; cooling covert; band to bind

 

Imagery: flowery bands, shady boon, daffodils in green world, clear rills, cooling covert, grandeur of dooms, endless fountain of eternal drink

 

Symbol: simple sheep – refers to mankind as Christ is the shepherd

 

Transferred epithet: gloomy days; unhealthy and o’er darkened ways

 

Extract Based Questions (4 Marks)

Question.1. Read the extracts given below 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 read;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from heaven’s brink

 

(a) Name the poem and the poet.
(b) What is the thing of beauty mentioned in these lines?
(c) What image does the poet use in these lines?
(d) What is the effect of this ‘immortal drink’ on us?
or
(a) Who are the ‘mighty dead’? How do we know about them?
(b) What images does the poet use to convey that beauty is everlasting?
(c) What is the effect of the immortal drink?
(d) Write the words from the extract which mean
      (i) stories
      (ii) magnificence

 

Answer.(a) The poem is ‘A thing of beauty’ and the poet is John Keats.
(b) The thing of beauty mentioned in these lines is the group of stories celebrating the glory of our powerful ancestors, which we have read or heard.
(c) The poet uses the image of an ‘endless fountain’ coming down to us from heaven. According to him, nature and other beautiful things around us are like a gift from God, which give us infinite delight and Joy.
(d) The immortahtirrnk gives us immense joy, a joy that is everlasting, one that will never come to an end.
or
(a) Our ancestors, who were great in their own ways and the dead emperors have been referred to as the mighty dead. We come to know about them by reading or hearing valorous tales, which speak of their innumerable sacrifices. They are a source of motivation for all who go through them.
(b) ‘Endless fountain’ of joy is the image that has been used to convey that beauty is everlasting. Things of beauty are an eternal source of motivation, a precious gift from heaven which give us infinite pleasure and defight.
(c) The immortal drink that nature’s endless fountain pours on us gives us immense joy and pleasure.
(d) (i) tales (ii) grandeur

 

Question.2. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
 

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.

 

(a) Name the poem and the poet.
(b) Why are we despondent?
(c) What removes “the pall from our dark spirits”?
(d) Explain, “the inhuman dearth of noble natures.” ’
or
(a) What are we doing every day?
(b) Which evil things do we possess and suffer from?
(c) What are the circumstances that contribute towards making humans unhappy and disillusioned with life?
(d) What removes the pall from our dark spirits?  
                   


Answer. (a) The poem is’A thing of beauty’and the poet is John Keats.
(b) Human iife is full of trials and tribulations. We add to our troubles and make our lives more difficult by following evil ways. We hurt others as well as ourselves. This makes us despondent.
(c) The various objects of beauty around us remove the pall from our dark spirits. Beautiful things have the power to make us happy.
(d) The poet here means that the world lacks in men of noble nature or qualities. There are few people who are noble in character; most of the people are self-centred and pursue evil ways.
or
(a) The memory of beautiful things remains in our minds and strengthens our bond with the Earth. Every day, these bonds get strengthened by the flowery bands that we prepare.
(b) Humans suffer from hopelessness and sadness. Our poor style of living make us grim.
(C) Hopelessness, sadness and lack of noble ways are a part of human life. We harm ourselves by following unhealthy and wicked paths. These circumstances contribute towards making humans unhappy and disillusioned with life.
(d) Anything beautiful in our surroundings or even the memories of our beautiful experiences removes the pall from our dark spirits.

 

Question.3. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
 

“Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits,”

 

(a) How does beauty help us when we are burdened with grief?
(b) Explain; “Some shape of beauty.”
(c) Identify the figure of speech in the above lines.
(d) Why are our spirits referred to as ‘dark’?

 

Answer. (a) Whenever we look at a beautiful object, we are filled with comfort and joy. When we are burdened with grief, a thing of beauty comes as a ray of hope, and makes us forget our sorrow and suffering at least for some time.
(b) Beauty is an abstract idea and has no specific shape. The poet here means beauty in some form or some beautiful object which pleases us.
(c) The above lines present an example of metaphor. Our souls are steeped in sadness and disappointment which are compared to a pall or shroud covering the dead.
(d) Our spirits are dejected due to extreme sadness and disappointment which may be the result of our own evil actions. So, the poet refers to them as dark, because of the hopelessness we feel.

 

Question.4. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
 

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

 

(a) What are the flowery bands that bind us to the Earth?
(b) What message do the above lines convey? (Delhi 2009)
(c) Why is there an “inhuman dearth of noble natures”?
(d) What do you understand by “unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways”?

 

Answer. (a) Here beautiful and pleasant things have been referred to as flowery bands. It is only those things which have beauty of some or the other kind that bind us to this Earth, or in a way, keep us going. The memory of our beautiful experiences helps us strengthen our bond with the Earth.
(b) The message that these lines convey is that the world is full of sorrow, sadness and depression. People have become selfish,-and there is a scarcity of noble people.
Despite this, life is possible because there are some beautiful things around, which help us to look towards the positive side of life. It is the beauty of these things which brings a smile on our face and gives us happiness in our lives.
(c) Today, there are few people who can rise above petty differences and be generous towards others. These days people are mostly selfish and do not think about others.
(d) The unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways refer to the trials and tribulations in our life, and the dishonest and unfair means people adopt to achieve their goals.

 

Question.5. Read the extract given below 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

 

(a) How does a thing of beauty remain a joy forever?
(b) Mention any two sources of joy which a thing, of beauty provides to us.
(All India 2008; Modified)
(c) Explain, “never pass into nothingness.”
(d) What is meant by‘bower’?

 

Answer. (a) A thing of beauty provides eternal and everlasting joy to us. Whenever we are in a pensive mood we can relive the joyful experience and happiness it gave us.
(b) A thing of beauty gives us a quiet bower to rest peacefully, and a blissful sleep full of
pleasant dreams.
(c) The joy that a thing of beauty give us is eternal. It never loses its importance, but it only increases with time.
(d) A ‘bower’ refers to a peaceful, quiet place under the shade of trees.

Short Answer Type Questions Marks, 30-40 words)

Question.1. How do beautiful things help us to live a happy life?
Answer. We derive comfort and happiness when we look at objects of beauty, and the lasting impression they leave on our minds is a source of permanent joy. Beautiful things bind us to the Earth and help us strengthen our relationship with nature. They provide us relief from our everyday trials and tribulations and help us live a happy life.

 

Question.2. What does Keats consider an endless fountain of immortal drink and why does he call its drink immortal?
Answer. Keats considers nature’s beauty as an endless fountain of immortal drink. He calls this drink immortal as the pleasure and delight given by it never passes into nothingness. It only increases with time.

 

Question.3. According to Keats, what spreads the pall of despondence over our dark spirits? How is it removed?
or
What spreads the pall of despondence over our dark spirits? How is it removed?

Answer. John Keats says that pain and suffering are a part of life. These bring us sadness and despondence. But still, we can find hope. The hope and motivation come from nature and remove the pall of despondence from our spirits. The beautiful sights give us inspiration to continue the journey of life.

 

Question.4. How does a thing of beauty provide shelter and comfort?
Answer. A thing of beauty provides shelter and comfort in many ways. It is like a bower, a place under the shade of a tree where we can rest. It gives us a sleep filled with sweet dreams. The streams and forests provide a cooling covert for us in the hot weather.

 

Question.5. How is a thing of beauty a joy forever?
Answer. A thing of beauty is a joy forever because it is a permanent source of joy and inspiration and leaves a lasting impression on us. The pleasure and happiness given by it never fades away but keeps on increasing.

 

Question.6. What makes human beings love life in spite of troubles and sufferings?
Answer. Human beings suffer from hopelessness and sadness. Our style of living often makes us hopeless and grim. We at times also, suffer due to the self-centred and wicked nature of others. In spite of all our troubles and sufferings, we are able to derive pleasure from our surroundings. The beautiful objects from nature help us shed our gloom, give us a glimmer of hope, and make us love life amidst all troubles.

 

Question.7. Why is ‘grandeur’ associated with the mighty dead?
Answer. The mighty dead are those who have laid down their lives for a great or noble cause. Their death is replete with intellectual and spiritual beauty. Birth, growth and decay, all are inseparable. Each has its own. beauty. Their death is grand or beautiful because it makes them immortal through the grand tombs and memorials erected in their honour.

 

Question.8. What is the message of the poem, ‘A thing of beauty’?
Answer. The message of the poem ‘A thing of beauty’ is that beautiful things are a source of constant joy and inspiration. They give us eternal pleasure and leave an indelible image on our minds and, therefore, every beautiful thing and aspect is worth being treasured.

 

Question.9. What is the ‘endless fountain’ and what is its effect?
Answer. Here beauty has been referred to as an ‘endless fountain’, which is an eternal source of motivation, an elixir of life and a precious gift from heaven. It gives us infinite pleasure and delight, and motivates us to continue our journey of life.

 

Question.10.What images does the poet use to describe the beautiful bounty of the Earth?
Answer. The poet uses the image of an ‘endless fountain’, which showers bounties on Earth. He calls this an ‘immortal drink’ from heaven. The sun, the moon, the trees, the daffodils, the lush green forests and streams, all reflect the beautiful bounties which God has given us.

 

Textual Question Answers


Question.1 What does the line, "Therefore are we wreathing a flowery band to bind us to earth suggest to you?
Answer. It means that we get attached to the beautiful things around us and weave a pretty band which binds us with our life, it becomes the reason for us to live.

Question.2 What makes human beings love life in spite of troubles and sufferings?
Answer. The eternal beauty of various things gives us happiness and relaxation. It makes us love life inspite of life's troubles and sufferings.

Question.3 Why is grandeur associated with the -mighty dead?
Answer. The noble deeds of the brave men who sacrificed their lives are an inspiration for us forever. The beautiful legacy of their bravery is the grandeur which is associated with the mighty dead.

Question.4 Do we experience things of beauty only for short moments or do they make a lasting impression on us?
Answer. According to the poet, a thing of beauty is a joy forever. Even if we see it for a few moments, it has a lasting impression on us and its beautiful memory stays with us forever. It inspires us to live, despite the ruthlessness of life.
 

Question.5 What image does the poet use to describe the beautiful bounty of the earth?
Answer. The beautiful bounty of the earth is described by -endless fountain of immortal drink- which signifies that God bestows us with all his beautiful creations which help us live despite the sad, gloomy aspects of life.

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