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I first discovered the poetry of the Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) in high school when a teacher read us several of the poet’s great odes—“Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode to a Nightingale,” and “Ode to Autumn.” I didn’t know exactly what Keats meant by “Beauty is truth, truth beauty: “—that is all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know,” but the lines spoke to some inner sense that beauty and truth couldn’t be separated. Certainly I was engaged by the pastoral scene and the ecstatic figures dancing on the urn. Reading these and other poems by Keats made me feel as he must have felt when he first read Chapman’s translation of Homer and later wrote a sonnet comparing his reading experience to that of the explorer Cortez when he first gazed at the Pacific.
Keats’ poems opened me to mystery. I didn’t understand, but wanted more. Then I studied him again in university, and again in graduate school at SFU beginning in 1969 when I read a biography of Keats by Walter Jackson Bate. I…