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A Thing of Beauty – John Keats

A beautiful thing is happiness forever. Whatever happens, we cannot hate a really beautiful thing. Even when it fades, decays or dies, we love such things without any conditions. It will never be forgotten even after its death, a thousand or two thousand years later. When we live surrounded by beautiful people, places and things, our minds will be refreshed and will have sweet dreams while sleeping. As a further result we will have good health and quiet breathing.

Simple Summary
  1. What are the qualities of beautiful things?
    1. They are joy forever.
    2. Their loveliness (internal beauty) increases.
    3. They will never pass into nothingness.
  2. What do beautiful things give us?
    1. They give us sweet dreams,
    2. They give us health,
    3. They give us quiet breathing.
    4. They give us hope.
  3. How do beautiful things disappear from our lives?
    1. Despondence,
    2. Death of good values (honesty, truthfulness, true love, etc.”
    3. Gloomy days,
    4. Searching for unhealthy ways to satisfy our needs.
  4. What are some examples of beautiful things?
    1. Trees (both, young and old) give us shade.
    2. Sun gives us light, life, warmth.
    3. Daffodils give us happiness,
    4. Clear rills (rivers) give us water.
    5. Musk rose flowers give us fragrance,
    6. Great people’s death give us freedom,
    7. Lovely tales give us lovely memories.

Stanza 1

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.

Qualities of Beautiful Things

  • It is a joy forever
  • Its beauty increases
  • It never dies
  • It is able to keep the nature still and silent.
  • It gives us sleep full of sweet dreams
  • It gives us health and quite breathing.
  • It gives us flowers to make a bouquet every morning
  • It is able to lift the burden of sadness from our dark mind.

Meaning

  • A thing of beauty – A beautiful thing
  • Joy – happiness
  • Loveliness – Beauty
  • Pass into nothingness – Become extinct; dead; forgotten
  • Bower – Garden
  • Quiet – Silent; motionless

Questions & Answers

  1. How is a thing of beauty a joy forever?
    A thing is said to be a ‘thing of beauty,’ because it is a source of joy forever. When we think of it we should be happy and in its absence too, it should fill our minds with divine memories of it.
  2. How does the loveliness of the beautiful thing increase?
    A really beautiful thing gives us such a happiness that will keep on increasing every day and will continue to be doing so for ever contrary to the ordinary things that give us happiness for some time and then disappears.
  3. How does a thing pass into ‘nothingness?’
    A thing passes into nothingness when it dies and disappears from our memories. Such a thing is not a thing of beauty.
  4. What is a bower? How does the beautiful thing keep a bower quiet for us? (This explanation is the best I could write but be warned, this section is usually overlooked by our teachers) A bower is a shady place under the huge branches of trees. A bower is always restless and noisy due to the wind that makes leaves rustle and birds to chirp. But there will be a sudden silence and stillness in a bower at the presence of a beautiful thing like a flower.
  5. How is the beautiful thing able to provide us with sweet dreams? What else does the beautiful thing provide us with? If we have the sweet memories of a beautiful thing, it will provide us with sweet dreams in sleep. It also gives us health and quiet breathing.

Stanza 2

In this stanza we see 3 things.

  1. The first two lines explaining the importance of beautiful things in our lives;
  2. The middle section presenting 4 circumstances under which the beauty of life disappears;
  3. The last two lines about the hope that a beautiful thing (beautiful anything) brings to the dark life.

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 over darkened ways
made for our searching:

Yes, in spite of all, some shape of beauty
moves away the pall from our dark spirits.

Paraphrase

Because the world is full of beautiful things, we are able to make a bouquet of flowers every morning so that we feel connected and attached to the world around us. However, there are times when we do not have flowers to make our bouquets. This is because of 4 reasons. 4 spites (ill-will or malice or bad temper)

  • Ill-will due to hopelessness.
  • Death of good values and rise of bad habits.
  • Hopeless days / sad days.
  • Habits to taking the wrong ways to achieve something for happiness.

Due to the above ‘spites’ our lives become sad, useless, hopeless, bitter and lifeless. However, one can come back to life only if the ‘pall’ is removed from the ‘dead-body.’

Meaning

  • Therefore – Because of this
  • Morrow – Morning
  • Wreathe – Arrange flowers into a bouquet
  • Flowery band – Bouquet
  • Spite – ill-will
  • Despondence – Sad, gloomy and deprived of hope
  • Spite of despondence – A mental state when we cannot see anything good about life; disappointment
  • Inhuman – Wild; brutal; cruel
  • Dearth – Absence; death; extinction
  • Noble natures – Moral values; good behavior, attitude, and character
  • Gloomy days – Sad and dull days
  • Over-darkened – Immoral; evil; bad
  • Made for our searching – Our preference for searching
  • In spite of all – In spite of all the above-said crises
  • Shape of beauty – A beautiful something
  • Pall – Cover; shroud; blanket
  • Dark spirits – Sad and gloomy mind.
Explanation

Imagine that someone took to the habit of taking drugs. It is said that one gets a pleasure by taking drugs. But soon he becomes an addict to it and won’t be able to pass a day without drugs. The comfortable blanket that he was covered with the first time turns out to be a burden! He wants to stop taking drugs but cannot. The comfort has now become a misery for his dear ones and for him. The ‘blanket’ cannot be lifted from him by any power. It is at this time a beautiful thing, such as a loving smile, a loving touch, a  loving care, etc., comes for his help.

Questions & Answers
  1. What does the poet mean by ‘wreathing a flowery band?’
    Wreathing a flowery band refers to arranging flowers in a beautiful order. Here the poet refers to our habit of gathering all good hopes, dreams and aspirations for beginning a more successful life each day.
  2. Why do we need to ‘wreathe a flowery band every morning?
    Wreathing flowery band is symbolic of gathering all good hopes every morning to begin a happy day. It is very necessary for all human beings to wreathe a flowery band every morning to love life in spite of all the sufferings and pains of life around.
  3. What is the ‘spite of despondence?’
    Spite of despondence is a state of our minds filled with ill-will and hatred for others due to profound hopeless and gloom.
  4. How does the ‘dearth of noble natures’ occur in our lives?
    With the passage of time we generally ignore the great values and moralities taught by our ancestors. It happens due to our tendency to embark the lighter ways and easier rules in the society.
  5. How do days become ‘gloomy?’
    Days become gloomy when hopelessness fills our lives.
  6. Why do people take the ‘unhealthy and over darkened ways for happiness? Do they find happiness there? Explain.
    The pleasure that one gets from bad means appears to be sweeter than those that come from good means. Even though they find happiness there, such happiness will not last. After providing a time of excitement and pleasure, this sort of happiness turns sour and misery.
  7. What is the ‘pall’ that covers our spirits? How does it fall on our spirits?
    The pall that covers our spirit is a blanket of comfort that we get from wrong means. It falls on us when we allow ourselves to enjoy evil pleasures.
  8. What can remove the ‘pall’ from our dark spirits?’ How?
    Only beautiful things can remove the pall from our dark spirits.
  9. What makes human beings love life in spite of troubles and ordeals?
    The presence of beautiful things in the world gives human beings an urge to live longer.

Stanza 3 – Some examples of beautiful things

What do you think?

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